As senior drivers end up driving well into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s, the need for safety awareness and heighten caution is critical. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that all adults age differently, with some losing essential motor skills sooner than others.
Losing one’s privilege to drive can affect an adult’s sense of dignity, including a loss of confidence, independence, self respect, and control. While some seniors merely fail a driving test or medical exam that leads to the loss of their license, other seniors are asked or restricted from driving by family members.
The most common physical ailments that affect senior drivers include, slowing reflexes, deteriorating motor skills, alertness and failing vision. Cognitive functioning, ability to reason and remember, as well as physical changes, might affect some older adults’ driving abilities.
In 2016, about 7,400 adults aged 65+ were killed and more than 290,000 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries resulting from automobile accidents. It also found that males have substantially higher death rates than females. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers is the actual cause rather than the injuries resulting from a crash.
Older drivers are less likely to drink and drive than other adult drivers. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found only 6% of drivers ages 75+ years involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher, compared with 27% of drivers ages 21-24 years.
Good practices of senior drivers that have had no accidents include: seat belt use; driving in good weather; driving during the day only; and, avoiding high speed routes or highways.
Medically, it is important to review any medications, both prescription and over-the counter, that are being taken and what their side affects might be. Have vision checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and always wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
Other driving tips include finding the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking. Plan your route before you drive. Leave a large distance behind the car in front of you. Avoid distractions in your car such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting, and eating.
Sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dept. of Transportation
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