How ageing can affect your driving

As we age, our physical and mental abilities change. Some of those changes – including our vision, hearing and ability to react quickly – can affect our driving.

These changes generally happen slowly, so it’s important to notice them early and understand if our ability to drive is being affected.  These changes don’t have to mean we have to stop driving.  If we regularly assess our own driving skills and abilities as we age, it will help us to drive safely.


Our vision changes over time and this can affect our driving (e.g. the amount of light we need to see clearly, the narrowing of our field of view and our ability to focus). Our vision changes gradually and it can be hard to notice.

That’s why it’s a good idea have professional vision checks at least every two years. This ensures any glasses or contact lens prescriptions you use are correct and checks for common eye conditions related to ageing such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts.

Catching these conditions early can minimise their impact and ensure our sight is good enough to continue driving safely. 

Free eye checks at Specsavers for AA Members


Hearing is an important part of safe driving.  If we can’t hear a siren, or another driver using the horn to warn about an imminent hazard, we might not react in time. Symptoms of age-related hearing loss include:

  • Difficulty hearing things in noisy areas (such as in heavy traffic)
  • Difficulty distinguishing high-pitched sounds (such as emergency vehicle sirens)
  • More difficulty hearing men’s voices than women’s voices
  • Voices sounding mumbled or slurred
  • Ringing sounds in the ears

There are numerous effective treatments for age-related hearing loss, including surgery, or using a hearing aid, that can help us drive safely. Many of today’s hearing aids are virtually invisible.

Motor skills and reaction times

As we age, many of us find that our reaction time slows. This makes it harder to react to situations such as another driver pulling out in front of us unexpectedly. Slower reaction times can a side-effect of common age-related diseases, such as arthritis and our decreased ability to concentrate.

We may need to restrict our driving if pain makes it hard to do so safely or if our range of movement or strength to undertake key coordinated activities becomes significantly diminished.  However, many difficulties of this type can be overcome by simple modifications to the vehicle or adjustment of driving technique.

Safety videos for older drivers

Waka Kotahi NZTA have produced several excellent short videos that can help us keep safe on the roads in our older years.  


Safe driving rules for older drivers


Traffic light safety


Safe motorway driving


Open road driving