Are you an older driver? If not, you probably know one — a parent, grandparent or neighbor down the street. Between 2010 and 2019, the U.S. population of people 65 and older increased by 34%, and in 2019 the number of people 65 and older killed in traffic crashes made up 20% of all traffic fatalities. During Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (December 6–10, 2021), we remind you that simply getting older doesn’t mean it's time to hang up your keys, but you should evaluate how you — or loved ones — drive.
How Aging Can Affect Driving
As people age, it's important to monitor changes in overall health as it relates to driving. While some drivers can safely drive into their nineties, for others medical conditions, problems with eyesight, sleep, tremors, or memory can make driving more difficult and dangerous.
Ask yourself, or the older driver in your life:
- Can you remember the routes you often drive?
- Do traffic signs and signals, or other drivers make you feel overwhelmed while driving?
- Have you recently received a ticket or citation for a driving violation, or been in a minor crash?
Many older people take multiple medications, whether prescribed or over-the-counter. Unfortunately, some of these drugs or a combination of drugs can impair judgment, or affect reflexes or the alertness necessary for safe driving. An older driver’s primary care provider or pharmacist can help determine if an older driver’s medications can affect their driving.
Older Drivers and Vehicles
Many vehicles can be modified to accommodate an older driver’s specific needs by adding adaptive equipment. This equipment can be as simple as a swivel seat for more convenient access, a hand control to make it easier to operate a vehicle, or a pedal extender. Make sure to ask a qualified mobility dealer for training on how to use the equipment.
Driver Assistance Technologies
Each year, vehicle manufacturers release new and improved driver assistance technologies to help keep road users safer. The technologies include everything from automatic emergency braking to blind spot intervention and lane keeping assistance. Driver assistance technologies aren’t just about keeping drivers safe; they also keep pedestrians and other road users safe.
NHTSA offers free educational resources for older drivers and older drivers’ caretakers to help make sure everyone can enjoy their later years to the fullest. We, and our many partners from the American Occupational Therapy Association, AARP, AAA, CDC and Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, encourage drivers and their families to begin a “transportation plan,” much like what many are encouraged to do for retirement.