Older Driver Safety

11/30/23  3:00 PM PST

Physical or mental deterioration can limit our ability to be independent at many different levels. For older adults, one of the biggest changes in independence comes when we are no longer able to safely operate a vehicle. After a long life of independence behind the wheel, needing to rely on another person to help us travel around is a difficult adjustment. If you or someone you love is considering when to set aside the keys, there are some important things to keep in mind.

Traffic Collisions Involving Older Adults are More Fatal

17% of all traffic fatalities are comprised of people 65 years or older. As we age, we encounter more age-related health issues that can cause various symptoms that make it unsafe to operate a motorized vehicle. These age-related health issues can include visual impairments, seizures, cognitive conditions, cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, dementia, diabetes and more. Motor crashes are also more harmful for older adults (compared to younger adults) due to declining health and functional abilities, including physical frailty, which can lead to longer and more difficult recovery times. In one study that was conducted, one in four older adults still suffered from moderate to severe pain six months after an accident. This pain affected daily activities, requiring an adjustment to living situations to better accommodate pain or injuries. Other studies have showed that chronic pain can increase risks of falls and decrease our cognitive function.


Preventative Steps to Help Keep You Safe on the Road

While age in and of itself plays a role in our ability to safely operate a vehicle, the decision to set aside the keys should also take into consideration age-related changes in vision, physical fitness, reflexes, and more. How can you stay independent on the road for as long as possible while avoiding motor vehicle accidents?

  • Plan trips during the day while it is light out.
  • If driving at night, keep your headlights on, slow down and keep an eye out for others using the road.
  • Begin planning for safe driving long before you notice difficulties.
  • Understand how medical conditions can impact your ability to drive safely.

It can be hard to lose the freedom that driving allows, but remember that these decisions are made to keep everyone safe, including you. Pay attention to early signs of difficulties while driving, and have a plan in place to keep yourself and others safe on the road.




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