As the Baby Boomer generation ages, more elderly drivers are out on America’s roadways. Senior citizens (people over age 65) can be very good drivers, but as their vision, hearing and motor skills worsen, the incidence of motor vehicle accidents increases. In 2012, there were 5,560 people 65 and older killed and 214,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These elderly individuals comprised 17 percent of all traffic deaths and 9 percent of traffic injuries in 2012.
There are several ways to prevent crashes involving older drivers. One way is to adapt motor vehicles for the needs of senior drivers. As technology advances, it becomes more practical for seniors to drive safely and remain independent. Some age related driving difficulties are easily remedied – such as a swiveling driver seat. Others, such as hand controls for physically handicapped drivers take some training, but can be highly effective. Some of these costs can be covered by insurance or by nonprofit organizations. Evaluating individual driver needs and working with professionals to choose appropriate adaptation devices can enable elderly drivers to maintain their driving freedom without endangering themselves or others on the road.
It is also sometimes necessary to understand and influence older drivers, whether they be family members, friends, or neighbors. Sometimes this could just be checking in to make sure that the older person is properly maintaining their vehicle so that it runs with optimum performance. If you are approaching senior status, or have elderly family members, try to be as objective as possible and gather information. In many cases, having an honest conversation with a medical professional can help a family or elderly driver decide their future driving plans. Often times if they if you sit them down and have a heart to heart conversion and explain the ramifications of say them getting injured in a car wreck, the ramifications not only to themselves but the potential for seriously injuring another person, they are more likely to listen. Having conversations with an older driver may be awkward for you or embarrassing for them, but it is imperative to ensure the safety of all people sharing the road.
Remember, a person’s driving performance is what determines their fitness to drive. Although age can be a good reason to begin watching for signs of dangerous driving, it is not a firm or foolproof indicator. An 80 year old driver may perform much better than a 23 year old driver. Safety should be the number one priority of all drivers, so it is best to work with the elderly driver, his or her family, and possibly medical professionals to determine the best steps for his or her future.