Older adults are statistically the safest drivers on the road.* Older drivers are more likely to use their seat belts and less likely to drive impaired. The number of accidents that involve older drivers decreases as age increases. Older drivers tend to drive when conditions are best and avoid busy rush hours and night driving. Sharing the roads with older drivers poses negligible risk to other drivers.**
Drivers over 70 do have a higher risk of accidents compared to other age groups and have more collisions than middle age drivers but not as many as young drivers. Limiting driving as a person ages depends on each individual. Age is not the whole picture. Age does affect motor skills and alertness but is different for everyone. It is unfair to say that all aging adults are affected to the same extent as others.
Eighteen states require older drivers to renew their licenses more frequently. In Illinois drivers over 75 are required to take a road test. California is unique and requires older adults to renew in person with an exam and written test every 5 years and Doctors must report when they feel a patient is exhibiting features that might inhibit their driving.
The ability to drive is related to health rather than age. Older drivers can do some things related to health to make them safer drivers.
• See the eye doctor every 1-2 years after 65
• Have your hearing tested every 3 years after age 50.
• If someone has dementia it is important to keep communication about driving open. People with dementia will eventually become unsafe but the question is: at what point? In the early stages of dementia many people are able to manage activities like driving.
• Read the warning labels on medications.
• Stay physically active.
Here are some tips from an 87-year-old driver who is a volunteer at AgeSmart.
When on longer trips:
• Plan your route in advance,
• Stop frequently, walk around,
• Enroute ask Siri for directions, Siri’s oral instructions such as “in half mile get in right lane to exit and McDonalds is on your right” etc.
Driving is an individual decision, based on many factors. Like anything related to aging, plan ahead, do your research and communicate with family.
For most people driving means independence. It is a way to get to appointments, go shopping and stay connected to the community. With the loss of this ability people become isolated and lonely and dependent on others. If you or someone you know is thinking of putting away the keys call your Area Agency on Aging or in the Metro East Illinois AgeSmart Community Resources to find out what options for transportation are available in your community. Call 618-222-2561 or visit www.AgeSmart.org.
Memorial Hospital Driver Rehabilitation Program – www.independentdriver.com
AARP Driver Safety – www.aarpdriversafety.org
AgeSmart Community Resources – www.AgeSmart.org 618-222-2561
Alzheimer’s Association – https://www.alz.org/greatermissouri
Source: *National Institute on Aging, **Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration