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Senior Driving: Adjusting as You Age

Thursday, January 19, 2017By Richard Alexander

As we accumulate birthdays, we accumulate age-related physical and mental decline. It is natural for older people to take more time evaluating risks and responding to them, and this can affect their ability to drive safely. In addition, senior drivers sometimes struggle with deterioration in their senses of vision and hearing. These changes can lead to challenges for older drivers whose driving is a key component of their independence.

Many people believe that older drivers are in more car wrecks than their younger counterparts. Is this true? According to statistics kept by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, older drivers are overrepresented in traffic crashes. Although they constitute only 14 percent of the population, they represent 17 percent of highway deaths and 10 percent of injuries. Fortunately, this statistic only tells part of the story. When the numbers are adjusted to account for miles driven, drivers aged 65 and older actually suffer fewer highway deaths than any other age group. (Unfortunately, the rate does increase when drivers reach age 70.)

Older drivers tend to adjust many things to account for their self-perceived limitations, taking actions like these:

  • driving fewer miles;
  • driving during better weather;
  • driving only during the day;
  • driving when traffic is light;
  • driving shorter distances; and
  • taking more breaks.

In addition to changing their driving behaviors, it is particularly important that older drivers wear their seat belts. That is because their bodies are injured much more easily and because they suffer from increased medical complications after they are injured.

Ensuring your car fits you as you age is also critical in avoiding accidents. The California Department of Motor Vehicles recommends that senior drivers ensure they can see over the steering wheel, reach the pedals properly, and enter and exit their cars easily. If your car no longer fits properly, check with AAA or AARP. They can help you identify and obtain adaptive devices that can help you overcome these potential obstacles to autonomy.

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