Can your parents still drive?
Statistics show that the
age of the average driver is increasing, with the number
of drivers over 56 years of age continuing
to increase annually. Statistics also show that the preferred
mode of transportation for this age group is still the
motor vehicle, for both short commutes and the occasional vacation
ages differently, so some people are perfectly capable of
continuing to drive in their seventies, eighties,
beyond. Many elders, however, are at higher risk for road
accidents. The elderly are more likely to receive traffic
failing to yield, turning improperly, and running red lights
and stop signs — signs of decreased driving ability.
A person 65 or older who is involved in a car accident is
more likely to be seriously hurt, more likely to require
and more likely to die than younger people involved in the
crash. In particular, fatal crash rates rise sharply after
a driver has reached the age of 70.
Some key risk factors for senior drivers include:
- Visual decline: Vision declines with age, which means depth perception
and judging the speed of oncoming traffic become more difficult.
The eyes also lose the ability to process light, which
night vision worse and causes more sensitivity to bright
sunlight and glare.
- Hearing loss: Approximately one-third of adults over age
65 are hearing-impaired. Because hearing loss happens
gradually, a senior may not realize they are missing important
cues when driving,
such as honking, emergency sirens, or a child's bicycle
- Limited mobility and increased reaction time: With age,
flexibility may decrease as response time increases.
A full range of
motion is crucial on the road.
- Medications: Certain medications, as well as
a combination of medications and alcohol, can increase
driving risk. Be
particularly careful about medication side-effects and interactions between
- Drowsiness: Aging can make sleeping more
difficult, resulting in daytime tiredness and an increased
tendency to doze
off during the day (or while driving). In addition, certain prescription
drugs cause drowsiness.
- Dementia or brain impairment: Mental
impairment or dementia makes driving more dangerous and more
impairment may cause delayed reactions to sudden or confusing situations
on the road.
addition, numerous environmental factors that affect people
ages can magnify a
diminished ability to drive safely:
and road markings that are difficult to see or to read.
and confusing intersections.
- older vehicles that lack automatic
- newer dashboard instrument panels with
- complex and confusing
a senior who is close to you is finding driving more difficult
watch for signs of
If you notice
any of the warning signs,
it is time to reassess the senior’s road
risk. Many small warning signs of unsafe driving
can add up to the important
decision to quit driving:
- Abrupt lane changes, braking, or acceleration.
calls" (i.e., almost crashing),
or dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes,
garage doors, curbs, etc.
- Failing to use the turn signal,
or keeping the signal on without changing lanes.
into other lanes.
- Driving on the wrong side of the road or
in the shoulder.
- Trouble reading signs or navigating directions
to get somewhere.
- Missing highway exits or backing up after
missing an exit.
- Trouble moving the foot from the gas to the
brake pedal, or confusing the two pedals.
- Feeling more nervous
or fearful while driving or feeling exhausted after driving.\
conflict on the road: other drivers honking; frustration
or anger at other drivers.
- Oblivious to the frustration of other
drivers, not understanding why they are honking.
of friends or relatives to be in the car with the senior
- Getting lost more often.
- Trouble paying attention to signals,
road signs, pavement markings, or pedestrians.
traffic tickets or "warnings" by traffic
or law enforcement officers.
you are concerned about an elderly driver, closely monitor
need to brush
up on their
or give up their
driver’s license altogether.
to a senior driver who should stop
If it’s time to talk to a senior close to you about
stopping driving, approach the issue with sensitivity. A
driver’s license signifies
more than the ability to drive a
car; it is a symbol of freedom, independence and independent
living, self-sufficiency, involvement
in social and religious
activities, and spontaneity.
driving is not a privilege that anyone wants to relinquish
is to treat the
senior driver with
respect, it is also important
to help the elderly driver retire
from the road.
Start slowly and try to persuade
the senior to give up the keys:
understanding about resistance.
questions, rather than make demands. For example, “Would
you consider not driving at night?”
about safety considerations. Many senior drivers who shouldn’t
be driving have already had
an accident or some close calls. Remind
them of the
danger of serious injuries
and that the safety of others is also
transportation options. Help the senior driver
won’t make them permanently
homebound. Show them how to
continue favorite activities
and to remain
monetary savings. The cost savings — insurance,
gasoline, maintenance and repairs,
and license and registration fees — associated
with giving up a car may be a
selling point for some older
rides and visits. Volunteer
to provide rides on a regular basis
them see the wisdom of the
decision. Some elderly drivers
may be aware of
but be reluctant
to give up
driving completely. They may
be relieved to have someone else help
When a senior driver refuses
to give up the keys
If, however, the senior driver
refuses to give up the keys,
you may need
to take stronger
- Taking away the car keys.
the car or removing it from the senior driver’s residence.
doctor to write a prescription stating “no
the help of a local police
officer to explain
seniors may forget that they aren’t supposed to drive. In that
case, it’s even more important
to remove the car or
the keys to make it impossible
Helping a senior adjust
to life without driving
sure that the senior has rides to their usual
the senior to make a schedule. Some activities,
punctuality, and others,
to the grocery store,
- Investigate home
delivery. Find out
learn to use the
Internet for shopping.
rides and find others who can offer
of the hardest
of not driving.
seniors may adjust better if they
car, but have
may feel more
familiar, and the
sense of loss from not driving
may be lessened.
Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO)
program for senior drivers.
Project is intended to
give the senior
or refresh their knowledge
of driving techniques.
It briefly addresses
topics for the
individual topic is only
is FREE to the senior
nor is a test
For more information,
please contact: Ohio Traffic Safety Office, (614) 466-3250