Is it time to hang up the keys?
Driving is a complex, fast-paced activity. The typical driver makes 20 decisions per mile, with less than a half-second to respond to changes on the road. Even the slightest driver impairment can have tragic and fatal consequences.
That's why it's important to acknowledge and accept that many of us will not be able to drive forever. When medical issues arise, even people with very good driving records can become unsafe behind the wheel and a danger to themselves and others.
We understand that giving up the ability to drive is one of the most difficult decisions a person will ever have to make. But if you suspect your driving ability has declined, we urge you to have a frank discussion with your physician. A trusted family member or friend may also help you decide whether it's time to hang up the keys and retire from driving.
In order to ensure your own safety – and the safety of others on the road – it's important that you recognize and be willing to discuss any driving difficulties and concerns with a trusted family member or friend. For example, if you find yourself driving much more slowly than the traffic flow or have difficulty making decisions at intersections, this may be a sign that your driving ability is declining.
The following self-assessment tools are easy to use and can give you a sense of where your driving skills currently stand. But please keep in mind these tools do not provide definitive proof of driving competency and should only be used in conjunction with a discussion with your physician or family member.
The Enhanced Drivers Decision Workbook
This fairly comprehensive list of questions related to driving takes about 15 minutes to complete. You’ll be provided instant feedback on your driving risk, along with multiple recommendations.
The LifeLong Driver
This website has an online test that is easy to use and provides real-life driving simulations.
If you think training would improve your ability to drive safely, you may decide to enroll in a driver training course or take private driving lessons. Safety Services Manitoba offers a free course intended especially for mature drivers.
Mature Driver Workshop
This free, three hour workshop is offered by Safety Services Manitoba to experienced drivers who wish to brush up on their skills and enhance their driving performance. Training includes a review of the traffic laws, road safety rules, and how to compensate for the physical effects of the aging process. Manitoba Public Insurance funds the delivery of this workshop.
(Please note that these tests and courses are just one of many factors you should consider when thinking about whether to hang up the keys. The results you receive are not definitive proof of your ability to drive safely.)
Why not be a passenger?
Eventually, many of us will have to retire from driving altogether. Depending on your age and medical condition, you should start planning for this new phase of your life. Planning in advance will make it easier to transition to alternate transportation and lifestyle changes.
If your driver's licence is cancelled or you make the decision to retire from driving, family and community support can help make sure your transition is as smooth as possible. Resources may be available online or at your local community centre or senior centre. Some examples include:
- The Transportation Options Network for Seniors (TONS) works to inform Manitobans about transportation options that enhance quality of life and to promote age-friendly communities.
- TONS coordinates a “Driving Safely” presentation, which highlights the challenges faced by older adults when making the decision to transition away from driving, adaptations that can be made to continue driving and options available to seniors when they are no longer able to drive.
- Download the “Driving Safely: Transitioning from Driver to Passenger” brochure (PDF)
- The Alzheimer Society of Manitoba provides services not only for individuals affected by Alzheimer’s disease but also for people impacted by other dementias.
If you are concerned about surrendering your driver’s licence because you would still like to have some government-issued photo identification, you can apply for a Manitoba Identification Card at any Autopac agent or Manitoba Public Insurance Service Centre. If you are over age 65, you can obtain an identification card at no charge.