Senior Drivers are Individuals!

Senior Drivers are Individuals

It’s one of the most difficult decisions we are faced with as we grow older – whether or not we should retain our drivers licence. It’s always wise to think carefully and realistically about this, and to chat to our health professionals (think GP, optometrist, hearing specialist, physio etc) about it. However, it’s also important we see ourselves as individuals, and don’t buy into the myth we must hang up the keys simply because we are growing older.

According to the New Zealand Automobile Association, one in four licenced drivers are aged over 60. By 2028, one in four will be over 65. When deciding if you will be one of them, consider this: In research commissioned by the AA, it was shown older drivers are, proportionally, involved in fewer accidents than middle aged drivers. However, when older drivers are involved in crashes, they are more likely to be injured or worse, because older bodies tend to be more fragile. So, if you do intend to keep driving, and professional advice agrees there is no reason not to, what can you do to increase your own safety, and the safety of others on the road?

Book a Senior Driver Coaching Session

AA Motoring offers senior driver coaching in two categories: 65+ years and 74+ years. (If you are in the 74+ category, and an AA member, you can access this service free, once every 2 years.) To find out more about these coaching sessions, which aim to help seniors feel confident and safe on the road, contact AA.

Accept change


Good vision is paramount when in the driver’s seat. However, vision generally deteriorates with age; our eyes adjust more slowly to changes in light levels, our focus is less acute, and our field of view narrows. There’s a lot we can do to mitigate this situation but it will only happen if we take regular eye examinations and care for any lenses we’re prescribed (this can be as simple as keeping spectacles well fitted, clean, and protected from scratches). If you use contact lenses, be sure to wear them only for the hours stipulated. If you find night driving difficult, confine your travel time to daylight hours.


Hearing can deteriorate with age, and loss of hearing can be exacerbated in situations where traffic is heavy or conditions are stormy. Make the most of the hearing you do have by having it professionally checked, and by always wearing your hearing aids as recommended. Choose quieter, rather than rush hour, periods in which to drive, and keep the car radio or music turned off.

Reaction time

Reaction time can slow as we age, with both mental and physical ability contributing to this. Conditions such as arthritis can make it difficult to turn our heads as quickly as we once could, or to reach for the brake or accelerator. Pain, and the side effects of some medications, can adversely affect our driving. To manage these conditions, drive at a time of day when you are most likely to be pain-free and mentally alert. Build in plenty of breaks when travelling long distances, and consider modifying your vehicle in simple, affordable ways. Cushions and seat pads, for example, can help relieve pain, and also raise you to a position in the driver’s seat where you have a better view over the dashboard.

Head to the movies!

AA offers a series of online videos, designed especially to help senior drivers feel confident on the road. Take the time to watch them – they are clear and informative.

If you feel confident to continue driving, and your health professionals agree, there’s no need to hang up the keys. Consider your options, and don’t buy into the myth all senior drivers are unsafe drivers!