Roadmap for Senior Driver Safety

Photo of older man sitting in his car in a parking lot.

Over 55.8 million licensed drivers are 65 or older; that’s about 1/5 of the driving population. New safety features and adaptive devices, like backup cameras and pedestrian detection, can help those in their golden years and ensure their “open road” independence. Just because you can, though, doesn’t always mean you should – and there are real concerns when seniors take the wheel.

The simple fact is that our driving abilities change as we grow older. Aging stiffens the joints and muscles, impairs vision and hearing, and usually means more medicines. All of these factors can reduce reaction time and reflexes, a critical component of safe driving.

Senior drivers are considered vulnerable road users. While teen drivers take more risks, 70% of fatal traffic crashes involve older drivers and other vehicles. Jessica B Cicchino of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety explained to AARP, “…older people tend to be more fragile and are more likely to die when involved in a crash.”

If you are an older driver, here are tips for keeping your driving safe:

  • Check in with your doctor about any concerns about your health and driving.
  • Stay physically active so you have the strength, flexibility, and agility that driving requires.
  • Take care of your eyes and ears with annual check-ups and by using up-to-date prescriptions or aids.
  • Drive a car that assists your driving with power steering, power breaks, large mirrors, and other features.
  • Know when it’s best for you to drive, avoiding nighttime or rush hour if those strain you.
  • Plan your route and leave plenty of time to navigate to the destination.
  • Wear your seatbelt and limit distractions by putting your phone away or leaving the radio station to where it is set.

Of course, whenever in doubt, don’t go out.

If you are a family member or friend of an older driver, you can help the roads stay safe, too! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends trusted loved ones talk about older driver safety and suggest these three steps:

  1. Collect information. See how the person’s driving is but also investigate how they carry out non-driving tasks like cooking or yard work. This will provide insight on what assistance they may need or appreciate.
  2. Discuss any concerns, help them identify strategies to avoid unmanageable driving contexts, and show them how to access new aids or alternative transportation.
  3. Follow through on the plan. Remember: The goal is to support their mobility with or without driving.

Older Driver Safety Awareness week is December 4-8, but road safety is a timeless issue. Keeping our senior drivers safe means better travel for everyone.

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