How do you know when to take away the car keys?

It’s hard to tell.

We know a teenager is more likely to cause an accident than a senior citizen. And you don’t want to curb your elderly parent’s independence.

You also don’t want to wait until a serious accident makes the decision for you.

Before you even suspect that aging parent might not be a safe driver, you should be checking the following.

1. How’s the health?

Conditions like diabetes, dementia, or vision loss are real risks for elderly drivers. Even joint or limb pains can present problems behind the wheel.

Every driver must be able to perceive and react to situations that are presented when driving a car. Consider your parent’s overall health.

2. Check the medication list.

Even seniors in good health usually take several prescriptions and supplements. These can cause side effects or interactions like confusion or drowsiness.

Make a full list with your parent, and review it with the primary care doctor, and maybe the pharmacist for possible interactions.

3. Ride along.

So your parent’s health and medications are in good shape. Now it’s time to take a ride.

Plan to do this periodically to see if anything changes.

Car door pattern

  • Is your parent driving safely and easily controlling the car?
  • Does the car stay in its lane?
  • Is it in keeping with the flow of traffic?
  • Can your parent navigate easily?
  • Is your parent able to react to situations they encounter?
  • Is parking the car a problem?
  • Are there scratches or dings on the vehicle?

4. Is the vehicle safe?

Safety technology has improved a lot. Especially for the elderly, some cars are safer than others.

Cars better suited for senior citizens are easy to get into, and have comfortable, easily adjustable seats and clear visibility from all positions. Some cars have larger buttons and navigation tools, and—as most new vehicles do—have blind-spot detection and traffic alerts.

Most importantly, the car needs to have a very good crash rating: elderly bodies don’t fare well in car accidents.

See Edmunds list of the Top Ten Vehicles for Seniors.

Still not sure if your senior citizen is safe to drive?

There are more resources and ideas for safe senior driving at


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