People are living longer. The elderly segment of our population is growing the fastest. The time is coming when every Baby Boomer will be a senior citizen. According to the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, by 2025 drivers over 65 years old will be involved in 25% of all traffic fatalities. Even now, elderly drivers cause more than their fair share of fatalities in traffic accidents. They are 16% more likely than adults 25-64 to cause a fatal accident. However, they are not as bad as teenagers. Those under 25 are 18% likelier than middle aged adults to cause fatal accidents.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults are more likely to use their seat belts, they are more likely to avoid unsafe driving conditions, and they are less likely to drive impaired than other drivers. Therefore, the occasional calls to restrict the privileges of all drivers over a certain age are probably overblown. Not every elderly person is the same.
Signs that an elderly person shouldn’t be driving:
If you are concerned about your elderly loved ones driving on the road, observe them and ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you heard them complain about other drivers on the road moving too fast or cutting them off?
- Have they expressed any anxiety about driving at night?
- Do other drivers honk at them in derision?
- Have you noticed any unexplained dents on the vehicle?
- Have there been any vehicle accidents?
- Have they been cited for traffic violations or given any warnings?
- Has a doctor recommended any changes in driving routine?
- Have they begun to get lost on familiar routes?
- Are they obeying the rules of the road: yielding the right-of-way, stopping at stop signs, honoring the speed limit?
- Are they having trouble maintaining control over the vehicle, drifting out of the lane, or swerving during turns?
- Have they confused the brake pedal and the accelerator?
- Do they have trouble moving their foot from one pedal to the other or switching gears?
If you find yourself answering more of these questions in the affirmative, you may want to have the difficult conversation with your loved one to consider alternatives to driving. For those who refuse to listen or consider your point of view, you could file an unsafe driver report with the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Nevertheless, there are ways that elderly drivers can reduce their risk of injury. Here are a few suggestions from the CDC. In order to reduce risk, older adults should:
- Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
- Ask their doctors or pharmacists to review medicines for side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, or lightheadedness.
- Have eyes checked annually and wear any prescriptive lenses.
- Plan route before leaving.
- Take the safest routes with well-lit streets and easy parking.
- Leave much space between their car and their car ahead of them in traffic.
- Avoid distractions like a loud radio or cellphone usage.
- Consider public transit and carpooling as often as possible.