The aging driver. Medicine, policy, and ethics

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1988 Dec;36(12):1135-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1988.tb04403.x.


With the graying of America, more older persons will be driving. Physiological changes associated with normal aging and diseases that commonly affect the elderly may compromise their ability to drive safely. Although all states have regulations governing driving licensure, few offer specific guidelines regarding older persons. Accordingly, much of the responsibility for determining medical competence to drive and counseling patients in this regard is left to physicians. Normal physiologic changes may limit sensory information, particularly visual, available to the driver. In addition, chronic diseases in older persons including coronary artery disease, dementia and other neurologic disorders, diabetes mellitus, and drug use may increase the risk of crashes while driving. Once the question of competence to operate an automobile has been raised, ethical dilemmas must be addressed regarding the benefit of continued driving for the individual versus the risk to that person and society as a whole. In this article, we review the medical grounds for determining competence to drive, discuss ethical implications, and report current legal regulations for physicians and aging drivers. Future directions and possible areas for further research are outlined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Licensure / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Public Policy / trends*
  • Risk
  • United States