Thoughts on the Decision to Stop Driving

Senior DriverWe have built our world around the convenience of the motor vehicle. Without one, our focus suddenly becomes much more narrow. Are you prepared to cope with the decision to stop driving when the time comes?

I ask this question after watching a significant change for part of my family. My in-laws decided that the family home of 52 years was too much for them and made the move to a seniors complex. My father-in-law suggested that they had been considering this for about 2 years but once the decision had been made the transition occurred too quickly.

They found a new seniors complex that suited them and had space available. Once their home was listed for sale, it sold almost immediately and the move to the complex was complete 30 days later.

Needless to say, they both found the change very stressful. A lifetime of possessions suddenly had to be divided into 3 categories: keep, redistribute or throw away and dealt with quickly. A new home had to be occupied and adjusted to as well.

My mother-in-law had the most difficulty and made the decision to stop driving on her own initiative. Fortunately, my father-in-law still drives and their facility provides transport to a nearby shopping center once a week.

Following the advice of her children, she chose to retain her driver's licence rather than surrendering it as she had first intended.

I really hope that this works out well for them once they get over the shock.

Life often does not leave you with choices and planning is much better than procrastination.

A driver examiner told me in conversation once that it was fairly common for older men who failed a retest to hop in the car and drive home after surrendering their licence. Thank goodness they made it there safely as they would not be covered by insurance if they caused a crash on that trip.

Younger people are not exempt either. I stopped a middle aged woman one morning as her driving made her appear to be an alcohol impaired driver. Conversation quickly established that she was sober but suffered from physical health issues.

I convinced her to park the car and let me drive her back home as no one she knew was available to help her. I felt very awkward in the situation and as we pulled into her driveway I complimented her on her home as a way of making conversation. "Yes," she said, "it's a pretty nice prison, isn't it?"

Somewhere between capable and incapable lies an area where the driver still performs adequately in some circumstances. Applying restrictions to their driver's licence permits some mobility while reducing the chance of causing a crash. Graduated De-Licensing if you will.

This is where ICBC operates in conjunction with health professionals, police, family and friends. However, for it to be successful, ICBC must know of the driver's difficulties either through reports or periodic medical examinations.

HealthLinkBC provides advice to help make the decision as well.

According to the Office of the Seniors Advocate of BC more work needs to be done in support of seniors mobility. The advocate has recommended a new program called “Community Drives” that would be administered under the existing home support program.

I suspect that no one really wants to grow old and stop driving much less spend the time planning for it. However, a little time spent in advance can make that transition much less stressful.


I recall reading an article about Donald Healey, founder of Austin-Healey in England.  He had always felt that people should stop driving at about age 80 - which he did.  For pleasure, he had access to an old aerodrome and would drive his son's car there.

This is one area where fully autonomous cars would be a blessing.  I can picture it now . . . I'm 85, it's late, my night vision is shot, I'm a hundred miles from home, and I can't really remember how to get there . . . I climb into into the back with a pillow, blanket, and a glass of scotch, and tell the car to take me home.  It wakes me up when it pulls into my driveway an hour or so later.


My Father always did the driving,  when he passed away my mother felt pretty uneasy about driving in Edmonton. After his funeral I stayed an extra week and would take her out late at night, and we would drive around.  She did OK, but she was not very confident.

 She was about 85 when she had an accident and they took her license away. She took some driving lessons and retested, but couldn’t get her confidence up to the level where the instructor thought she should have a license. She was really bummed out about it and it really put a damper on her activities, But after a time she got used to taking the bus and having friends drive her to church and other social functions.

I found out about an organization called Drive happiness where I was able to pay $20 a year for her membership and then every trip is like $10. They will  take her anywhere she wants to go for an hour and a half for that price.

 She loves it . There’s no responsibilities anymore for the driving, there’s no expenses for the car and the upkeep, the licensing, the fuel, and all the things that were really a burden on her.

And I feel really good at this end, knowing that she’s got a bit of her social life back and I don’t have to worry about her out there mingling in traffic.

Too bad we don’t have anything like that out here.

This was very timely as my wife & I are in the process of moving into a Seniors Independent Living complex.

In conjunction with this move I am seriously considering surrendering my drivers license (which is currently under review, I gather for health issues).

As you state, considerable financial improvements are available by eliminating insurance premiums, vehicle maintenance & gas. Transportation facilities are provided by the complex & taxis etc. are available.

At 78 it is something that I think about often.

I take the practice tests on the ICBC site on a regular basis so that I keep up on the rules of the road. Over the years have taken defensive driving courses.

Hopefully I can critique my own driving skills well enough to recognise when I should hang up the keys. Had a friend that used to tell us if it wasn't for his superb driving skills he would have been in an accident many times. Have promised myself that I will never let my driving get to that point.

Did the downsizing 10 years ago and just recently put my name in for a place that has both independent living and care. When a vacancy comes up will probably take it. Currently still use the company I signed up with when I was in business with a safety check 3 times per day. Doctor tells me I am in excellent health for my age but when you live alone I find it reassuring to know that if I don't check in someone will be checking on me. Friends keep in touch but not the same as a set safety check.

This one is tough.  It’s such an individual, case-by-case assessment that I don’t think you can put an age flag (if you will) on all.  As my parents aged and I watched my father fall into the early signs of Alzheimers he would often take an entire day to return home from his local trip to the store.  I convinced my mother to speak to his physician and get him off the road!  She did.  And he had to give up his license.  While my mother still had hers, she did the local driving (store etc) but never travelled outside the small town or at night. This was doable and safe as she was not driving outside her safe zone and was still a good driver.  I believe in restrictions.  

Our aging seniors are quite capable to drive in the limits of the city they reside, in fact, that’s probably all most of them do.  No night driving and only within their residential city is a couple restrictions that I think would be acceptable till the absolute end of their driving capabilities.

On the flip side of that “competence” level, I have witnessed many, many “senior” drivers wiz by me like they’re in their invincible 20’s and seem to have little indication of their atrocious driving!  I shake my head and apologize to the younger generation for always suspecting them to be the worst drivers.


Our aging seniors are quite capable to drive in the limits of the city they reside, in fact, that’s probably all most of them do.  No night driving and only within their residential city is a couple restrictions that I think would be acceptable till the absolute end of their driving capabilities.

The Enhanced Road Assessment was developed in part to identify that 'absolute end'.

20+ years ago, a Driver Examiner conducting a Re-Examination would quite often apply specific Restriction 51 conditions, and limiting higher high speed highway use along with disallowing night driving were the most common; oftentimes, this would reflect self-regulation already being applied anyway by the Applicant. The idea was not to take away the driving privilege so long as they appeared to be safe and cognizant of the driving scenario. And the DE would have been trained to mark that Re-Examination with reasonable discretion, so long as this was the case.

But what has been occurring not only in BC, but licensing jurisdictions worldwide, is seniors have been living longer than ever, with a higher risk of some form of dementia preceding the inevitable physical deterioration that comes to all of us, that could affect their ability to drive safely.

Driving isn't a physical task, really - otherwise, you could train a monkey to do it. Driving is primarily a visual and cognitive task; and this is what has driven (pardon the pun) the licensing authorities to try increasingly to effectively and fairly address the issue - it's absolutely for everybody's safety. We can't have drivers on the road who can't think straight, is what it comes down to.

The DriveABLE testing that was offered for some time as an alternative to the 'normal' ICBC Class 5 Driver Examination tried to address the cognitive issues, but it was expensive to some and required both (very simple) interactive computer use and being able to drive an unfamiliar vehicle, which didn't go over very well with many of the seniors.

So much development has gone into the ERA as the best possible option for ensuring that those licensed seniors don't die behind the wheel - or harm someone else.