Effects of Aging

Driving is a series of complex tasks that requires a driver's ability to see, think and do.

Older drivers often take longer to complete each of these tasks, and drivers at risk may have difficulty doing one or more of these tasks.

See and hear what’s in the environment

Good vision is essential to safe driving. For example, a driver over forty years can take a full second longer than a younger driver to refocus when looking up from the dash to the road ahead. We also use our hearing when we drive.

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Think and process information quickly

After we see what’s happening in our driving environment, we need to process the information and decide what to do. Experience and mature judgement are important but older drivers process information more slowly.

Certain medical conditions can significantly reduce a person’s ability to drive safely. Dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment often cause difficulty concentrating, reasoning, judging, remembering as well as making decisions. These changes greatly decrease a driver’s ability to perform safely behind the wheel. Some individuals with these conditions may not even be aware that they are no longer able to function safely as a driver, greatly increasing their own risk and the risk to other road users.

Do by taking the appropriate action

Once information is processed, the driver needs to react quickly. But, testing shows that many older drivers take longer to perform motor activities. Weaker muscles, reduced flexibility and range of motion and conditions such as arthritis make it more difficult to:

  • turn our heads
  • grip and turn the steering wheel
  • press the accelerator or brake
  • reach the controls or open windows and doors