There is a group of drivers on our roadways whose hazardous habits are projected to worsen as they increase a by whopping 73% by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
They’re out of control. Driving while distracted. Driving while impaired. Driving in conditions they shouldn’t be. Not obeying speed limits. And many admit to having taken drugs before getting behind the wheel!
These senior citizens today!
Elderly Drivers Cause More Deadly Crashes Than Teens
The reality is that deaths from senior drivers (85 and older) are four times higher than that of teen drivers, according to a Carnegie Mellon University and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study.
Based on data obtained from 1999–2004, fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65. From ages 75 to 84, the death rate equals that of teen drivers. After age 85 is where we see fatality rates accelerate. For drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate increases to nearly four times that for teens.
Why Do Seniors Pose Such a Roadway Threat?
As they age, senior drivers may experience many conditions that may cause them to drive at a slow pace. They may suffer from arthritis and stiff joints and weakening muscles, making it harder to turn their heads and reducing the amount of pressure they can apply to the gas pedal. You might think that driving at a slow pace would be safer. That’s not necessarily the case.
According to Essurance.com people who drive slower than normal, in the left lane for example, may cause you to have to pass on the right. This could lead to confusion and disorganization which can potentially cause an accident.
Catching up to a slow driver creates dangers even in residential areas, if you have to suddenly stop. This could start a chain reaction of braking that could lead to accidents or road rage.
A natural age-related decline in vision may make it harder to see people, objects, and areas in the peripheral vision. For some it can take longer to read street or traffic signs and recognize places, even familiar ones. Decline in night vision is particularly common among the elderly and headlight glare or street lights can pose a challenge. For some, the sun might become especially blinding at certain times of day. Medicines can also cause vision problems as can the onset of glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
As you get older it can become harder to hear horns and sirens and even noises coming from your car potentially alerting you that something is wrong and you may need to pull over.
As people age reflexes might become slower and you may have a shorter attention span. This might make it harder to multitask. Stiff joints or weak muscles also can make it harder to move quickly.
Eventually all of us age – unless, well the alternative happens. I’ll take aging thank you. Especially as today, there are a number of ways to try to overcome some of the problems many seniors experience on the road.
Here are some things from the National Institute on Aging to keep in mind as we age to try to keep yourself and others safer around you.
Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
- Did you know that there are driving rehabilitation specialists available that will check your driving skills? Occupational therapists can do the same. Who knows, you may get an all clear.
- Some car insurance companies may lower your bill if you take and pass a driver improvement course. Here are two resources to find driver courses near you through AAA and AARP. You can also check with your car insurance company.
- Remember when in doubt, don’t go out. Never try to drive in inclement weather that makes you feel uncomfortable like rain or snow. Wait it out or use public transportation or a driver service, such as Uber, Lyft, or even a taxi.
- Avoid highways or other high-speed roadways if you don’t feel confident using them.
- If you take medications, ask your health care provider if it is safe to drive while taking them.
How to Stay Mobile and Keep Your Freedom
Rightfully, many seniors worry that once they stop driving, they’re homebound. But communities across the nation are offering more of a variety of ways to get around without having to drive. Here are just a few ideas:
- Free or inexpensive bus or taxi services for seniors
- Carpool services for doctor’s visits, grocery shopping, the mall, hair appointments
- Many religious and community service groups have volunteers on call who can drive you where you need to go
- Car or driver services. (Remember, when you’re not paying for car insurance, maintenance, gas and other auto incidentals, this could end up being even cheaper than owning a car.)
- Pay friends or family members to take you places. It could be the beginning of more meaningful relationships.
To find transportation services in your area call 1-800-677-1116, or visit eldercare.acl.gov to find your nearest Area Agency on Aging.