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Aging Resources WNC

Alternative Transportation Considerations

Driving a vehicle is an integral part of American life. But aging can bring changes in vision and response times on the road and health conditions and medications can impact the ability to drive. When it appears that driving is becoming more challenging, it may be time to explore the next steps and other transportation options to protect the safety and well-being of the driver and others on the road.

Talk About Driving Abilities and Transportation Options

Start by having a candid conversation about your concerns about you or your loved one’s driving abilities as well as about alternative transportation options. Being kind, calm and empathetic during these discussions is beneficial to everyone involved. 

According to a study performed by The Hartford Centor for Mature Market Excellence, choosing the best person to initiate the conversation may help. Older drivers may be more receptive to concerns that come from their spouse, doctors, adult children or a close friend.

Broaching the Subject of Ceasing to Drive

Because driving is often equated with independence, having a conversation about no longer driving can be a sensitive one. The Hartford’s study showed nearly one-fourth of adults felt depressed after such a conversation, and family members may feel angry, frustrated or guilty for depriving a loved one of the freedom their own driving allows. However, avoiding a possibly unpleasant conversation is less important than avoiding potential accidents. Approach such a conversation with respect, directness and a focus on safety, including those of passengers, pedestrians and other drivers.

Participating in a formal driving assessment performed by a professional who is not a family member can be useful, as can meeting with a family physician who may be able to evaluate how health conditions and medications may be impacting driving ability.

Observe and Evaluate Driving Skills

A passenger riding along with a driver can assess driving abilities. While such a ride-along is not a test, it is a way to help figure out if someone is having challenges with driving. According to the AARP, signs to look for include:

  • Being easily distracted

  • Having a delayed response to unexpected situations

  • Running lights or stop signs

  • Clipping the curb

  • Exhibiting lane drifting or having trouble changing lanes

  • Misjudging distance

  • Showing a loss of driving confidence

  • Getting lost in familiar places

  • Driving too fast or too slow

  • Having trouble moving the foot from the gas to the brake or confusing the two

  • Being pulled over by the police, having dents and scrapes on the vehicle and being involved with accidents – including fender-benders – also indicate that it may be appropriate to evaluate whether or not to drive

The diagnosis of certain medical conditions and/or their necessary associated medications that can impact driving skills may also signal the need for a driving evaluation.

UNC Health Blue Ridge offers a Medical Driving Evaluation and Training Program at Blue Ridge Therapy. This program uses a combination of an in-clinic and a behind-the-wheel evaluation by an occupational therapist who is a certified driving instructor as well as a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist. These evaluations review medical and driving history and include assessments of physical skills, vehicle seating and driving maneuvers and can help determine the best way to drive and carry different mobility devices if needed. Strategies to keep driving skills sharp may be discovered.

A formal recommendation is made upon completion. Evaluation results are shared with the client, referring physician and the Department of Motor Vehicles who work together to make the final decision about driving continuation.

Arrange Alternative Transportation

In the event that you or a loved one stops driving, discuss transportation needs and set up alternatives for errands, appointments and recreational activities. Family members and friends can create driving schedules and take turns providing regular transportation. Private ride services such as cab companies, Uber and Lyft may be useful as may be public transportation options.

By having alternate transportation plans in place, you or your loved one can continue to live independently without the worry that can come with driving challenges. And while giving up driving is a transition, ceasing to drive does not have to mean disengaging from socializing, running errands or being active in the community.

Helpful Resources 

DMV and Public Transportation Information

In North Carolina, motorists aged 66 and older are required to renew their driver’s licenses every five years. Others generally must renew their licenses every eight years. Learn more at

The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicle’s Medical Review Unit Program also evaluates a driver when there are concerns that certain medical conditions – not age alone – might have an impact on the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. For more information, visit

In South Carolina, drivers 65 and older must renew their driver’s licenses every five years. Renewing for 10 years may be possible if the driver is younger than 65. More information can be found at

If there are concerns about a person’s ability to drive, doctors and law enforcement officials can request that a motorist’s driving skills be assessed by an SCDMV examiner.

For details on area public transportation services, view the Transportation Appointments and Errands section of the Aging Resources Directory.

Aging Resources Magazine 2023-2024