When Should You Give Up Driving?

Assess your driving fitness as a senior, explore alternatives and plan a smooth transition after giving up your licence.
Published on December 3rd, 2020
  Written by 
Adrian Edlington
Adrian Edlington is PR & Communications Manager at Savvy. With a keen interest in personal finance, car loans, the mortgage industry, cost of living pressures, electric vehicles and renewable technology, Adrian's research includes conducting primary data surveys and analysis of up-to-the-minute secondary Australian data sources. His work on behalf of Savvy has been featured on ABC.net.au The Conversation, the Sydney Morning Herald, AFR, News.com.au, The Age, Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, SBS On The Money, 7News, Car Expert, Which Car, Drive.com.au and more. In his spare time, Adrian enjoys mountain biking and business podcasts.
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   Reviewed by 
Bill Tsouvalas


Bill Tsouvalas
Bill Tsouvalas is the managing director and a key company spokesperson at Savvy. As a personal finance expert, he often shares his insights on a range of topics, being featured on leading news outlets including News Corp publications such as the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, Fairfax Media publications such as the Australian Financial Review, the Seven Network and more. Bill has over 15 years of experience working in the finance industry and founded Savvy in 2010 with a vision to provide affordable and accessible finance options to all Australians. He has built Savvy from a small asset finance brokerage into a financial comparison website which now attracts close to 2 million Aussies per year and was included in the BRW’s Fast 100 in 2015 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. He’s passionate about helping Australians make financially savvy decisions and reviews content across the brand to ensure its accuracy. You can follow Bill on LinkedIn.
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Deciding when to give up driving is a significant milestone in many people's lives. While driving provides independence and freedom, as we age, there may come a time when it's no longer practical to continue. In this guide, we'll explore the signs that indicate it may be time to consider giving up driving, the challenges associated with this decision and alternative transportation options that may be available to maintain independence and mobility.

Assessing fitness to drive

Giving up driving is a decision influenced by various factors, particularly age, health and overall safety. As we get older, the risk of serious injury or death in a car accident increases significantly. This is generally due to:

  • Slower reaction times: the ability to react quickly to unexpected situations on the road diminishes with age.
  • Increased medical conditions: age-related health issues like heart disease, stroke or arthritis can affect driving ability.
  • Medication side effects: certain medications can impair cognitive function or reaction times.

However, age is not the only factor. Many seniors continue to safely drive, and the proportion of older drivers on the road has actually increased in recent years. The key question is whether you can still operate a vehicle safely. Here are some crucial aspects to evaluate:

  • Vision: sharp vision is essential for safe driving. Regular eye checkups and addressing any vision impairments like cataracts or macular degeneration are crucial.
  • Hearing: the ability to hear sirens, horns and other traffic signals is vital. Difficulty hearing these cues might necessitate giving up driving.
  • Physical dexterity: good hand-eye coordination, strength and flexibility are necessary for manoeuvring the car, braking and reacting quickly.
  • Cognitive function: cognitive decline, including memory lapses, slow reaction times and difficulty concentrating, can significantly impact driving skills.

Renewing your licence

Each state and territory in Australia has its own driving regulations, which may include age-based checks. Here's a comprehensive breakdown of these state-specific requirements:

New South Wales: drivers aged 75 and over require an annual medical assessment from a registered doctor to renew their licence, and may need to take a driving test or assessment.

Victoria: drivers can continue driving at any age if medically fit. They must monitor their health, report any conditions affecting driving and self-assess their driving regularly. Medical reviews may be required if concerns arise.

Queensland: drivers aged 75 and above must undergo medical assessments at least annually and carry a current Medical Certificate for Motor Vehicle Driver when driving.

South Australia: drivers aged 75 and over with no recorded medical conditions must complete an annual self-assessment.

Western Australia: drivers aged 80 and over require an annual medical assessment. Driving assessments are only required if recommended by a doctor.

Northern Territory: there are no mandatory medical assessments for licence renewal based solely on age. However, drivers are required to report any conditions that could affect their ability to drive.

Tasmania: drivers are considered senior from the age of 65, but there is no requirement for regular medical checks. However, they must disclose any conditions that might affect their driving.

Australian Capital Territory: drivers aged 75 and older must have annual medical examinations to retain their licence.

Medical assessments evaluate things like vision, hearing, cognitive function and any physical limitations that might affect driving ability. The doctor can recommend restrictions on your licence (e.g. daytime driving only) or advise against driving altogether.

Preparing for life beyond the wheel

In many cases, giving up your licence doesn't have to be a sudden and disruptive event. Here's how you can plan and prepare for a smooth transition:

  • Early discussions: talk openly with your family and close friends about your driving abilities and potential concerns. Discussing alternative transportation options together can ease any anxieties.
  • Trial runs with alternatives: before entirely giving up driving, try out public transport routes, ride-sharing services or carpooling arrangements. This helps you get comfortable with these options and identify any challenges.
  • Financial planning: consider the potential costs of alternative transportation like public transport passes – though these may be free for senior citizens – or ride-sharing services. Factor these costs into your budget planning.
  • Gradual shift: if you are able to, start by gradually limiting your driving to familiar routes or daylight hours. This allows you to build confidence in alternative options.

Surrendering your licence 

If you need to or have decided to give up your licence, here are the steps to follow:

  • Contact your licensing authority: each state/territory has a specific process for surrendering your driver's licence. Contact your local transport authority for instructions and any applicable fees.
  • Inform your insurance company: notify your car insurance provider that you're surrendering your licence. This will cancel your car insurance policy and potentially result in a refund of any unused premium.
  • Vehicle disposal: decide what to do with your car. You might want to sell it privately, pass it along to a family member or scrap it.

Adjusting to life without your licence

Surrendering your licence can be an emotional transition. A vehicle – especially in a car-dependent country like Australia – often symbolises freedom, independence and control. Here are some tips for coping with this change:

  • Acknowledge the loss: allow yourself to feel the sadness, loss of independence or frustration you might experience.
  • Focus on the benefits: consider the safety aspect – giving up your licence might protect yourself and others on the road.
  • Explore alternatives: research alternative transportation options like public transport, ride-sharing services or carpooling opportunities.
  • Maintain social connections: stay connected with friends and family who can help you with errands or transportation needs.

Several resources can support a smooth transition from driving to alternative transportation methods. For example:

  • State and territory transport authorities: these websites provide information on public transport options, concession fares for seniors and accessible transport services.
  • Senior advocacy groups: these organisations offer support and guidance to seniors navigating transportation options and other age-related changes.
  • Community transport providers: many local communities have volunteer-driven transport services specifically catering to seniors.

Exploring alternative transportation options

Many parts of Australia offer a range of alternative transportation options for those who choose not to or are unable to drive:

  • Public transport: many cities and towns have bus, train, and tram networks that can take you to your destination.
  • Ride-sharing services: apps like Uber and Ola connect you with drivers for point-to-point transportation.
  • Community transport: some communities offer specialised transport services for seniors or people with disabilities.
  • Carpooling: sharing rides with friends or neighbours can be a cost-effective option. There are also apps available to help connect you with people travelling in the same direction.
  • Cycling or walking: for shorter distances, consider walking or cycling as healthy and eco-friendly alternatives.

Giving up your driver’s licence is a big change, but it’s not the end of the road for your independence. By embracing alternative modes of transportation, you can continue to travel and enjoy life to the fullest.

If you’re still driving as a senior and want to explore car loan options, Savvy is here to help. Our hands-on team can assist you in finding the right financing solution tailored to your needs, ensuring that you can continue to travel safely and comfortably. Get started today.

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