When should older drivers hang up their car keys?

Traffic in Bakersfield, Calif., is seen in an October 2017 file photo. (KBAK/KBFX)

After Great Britain's 97-year-old Prince Philip’s recent collision and return to the road, many are revisiting the question: When is it time to retire from driving?

Experts say the answer isn’t the same for everyone.

“There really is no specific age limit for when someone should stop driving because our bodies age differently,” Doug Shupe, spokesperson for AAA of Southern California, said.

As people age, they face challenges that might make driving more difficult, like vision and hearing loss, but Shupe said recent research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found conversations about what mature drivers are facing and experiencing on the road, and if they’re able to continue driving, usually don’t happen until after a traffic collision or incident.

To prevent accidents from happening, it’s important to talk early and often with older drivers. AAA suggests going on a drive with them, watching how they react to traffic lights and other situations, and making sure they’re aware of any side effects that might come from medication they’re taking.

Shupe also said people shouldn’t be too quick to judge older drivers because they’re some of the safest drivers on the road.

They’re more likely to wear their seat belts and less likely to drive while distracted. Studies have also shown that taking away the keys too early can have negative consequences for older drivers.

“Our research shows that drivers who give up the keys too early are twice as likely to suffer from depression and five times as likely to end up in long-term care,” Shupe said.

On average, Shupe said most drivers will outlive their driving abilities by seven to 10 years. To make sure loved ones aren’t driving past their ability to safely operate a vehicle, there need to be conversations early and often.

AAA has some great resources for getting the conversation started at Roadwise Rx and AAA's website on senior driving.

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