Driving Safely as You Age
One of the things that helps older adults retain a feeling of independence is the ability to drive a car. However, it can be challenging. As you age, you may notice physical changes that may make doing certain actions harder, slower mental reactions, or loss of vision or hearing. While it is true that many can drive safely well into their 80s and beyond, some cannot so it is important to understand how aging can affect your driving and how you can continue driving safely as you age.
How aging affects your driving
- Arthritis is common among older adults. Joints can stiffen and muscles can weaken. This can make it harder to turn one’s head to look back, brake safely or do other movements.
- Vision impairments (trouble seeing) can make it harder to see people or other vehicles outside your direct line of sight. Seeing at night can be a problem at any age, but as you age, you might have trouble seeing things clearly or reading traffic signs.
- Hearing loss makes it harder to notice horns or sirens that tell you to pull over.
- Reflexes tend to be a little slower so you may not be able to react as quickly as needed.
According to the NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, in 2019:
- there were 7,214 older adult traffic deaths in the US.
- there were 54.1 million people (16% of the total US population) who were 65 and older.
- Older drivers made up 20% of all licensed drivers in 2019 and 15% of drivers involved in fatal traffic crashes.
Questions? Call us at (877) 284-6600.
Safety Tips for Aging Adults
- Know your medications. Some medications can make you drowsy, less alert or affect your reaction time; others tell you specifically not to drive while taking them.
- Stay physically active. This can help improve your strength and flexibility, making it easier to turn the steering wheel, change lanes or other movements while driving.
- Schedule regular hearing and vision tests.
- Drive when the roads are in good condition – daytime, good weather, quiet roads, familiar areas, safe routes.
- Consider new vehicle technologies that may help reduce crashes and/or improve reaction time. However, some of these technologies can also be a distraction to the driver so you will want to test them out to make sure they are helpful and not a hindrance.
No Longer a Safe Driver?
It can be hard for an older person to realize that he or she is no longer a safe driver. Help them:
Assistive technologies, such as a GPS, can make older drivers feel safer and more confident when driving.
Understand their limitations and make the necessary adjustments. This may be a perfect opportunity to talk to an occupational therapist about new vehicle technologies and/or other assistive devices, such as:
- Forward collision warning warns you if you are about to have a crash.
- Automatic crash notification automatically notifies emergency services without anyone having to call 911.
- Parking assist with rear-view display gives you a back-up camera to clearly see what’s behind as they back up. Some vehicles come equipped with obstacle detection warning system which notifies you if you’re about to hit something.
- Self-parking systems take over steering while the car parallel parks itself.
- Navigation assistance is a turn by turn GPS system.
Signs that may indicate it is time to hang up the keys.
- Health issues that might affect driving ability including problems with vision hearing and/or movement.
- Multiple vehicle crashes, near misses, and/or new dents in the car.
- Increases in car insurance premiums because of driving issues.
- Anxiety about driving at night
- Recommendations from a doctor to modify driving habits or quit driving entirely
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall or some other accident in which you suffered serious injuries due to another’s negligence, contact Nash & Franciskato at (877) 284-6600. We have a successful track record of helping accident victims collect the compensation they deserve.
One of our experienced staff will speak with you personally and will provide you with a free, no-obligation review of your case.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published June 21, 2021. It was reviewed on May 16, 2023 and updated for content and accuracy.