Road Safety and the elderly driving have been a bone of contention for decades, with legitimate arguments for both sides, including for those who still remember the history of car rental…
The truth is that as you get older you lose much of your independence, and being able to drive gives you a bit of freedom and self respect, but it does come with increased risks.
In this post we look at a couple of facts regarding older road users, and offer some friendly advice to keep you safe.
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Road Safety and the Elderly
Driving a car is a symbol of freedom and independence, that makes older adults feel more fulfilled and gives them a sense of control over what happens in their lives. Turning a certain age certainly should not, and does not, preclude you from being a safe road user. More than 80% of seniors (there were 45 million older Americans in 2018) hold a valid driving license.
When we get older, our bodies and minds begin to change and as a result, driving can become more difficult and dangerous. There is no specific age or cut-off date that says you are now forbidden to drive, but there are a few signs that should make you think about how much time you spend on the roads.
MyMobility is a very helpful app from the CDC that can help you or a loved one stay safe, mobile, and independent. In this tool, they used scientific evidence to develop a plan to help older adults prepare for future mobility changes that might increase their risk of motor vehicle crashes and falls.
But lets pick up our walkers and move along to look at some statistics about road safety and the elderly, and what older road users can do to mobile, safely. Because you tend to forget some things as age creeps up on you, I thought that our older readers will find our blogpost, Rental Car Lost and Found Items: The Weird and the What to Do, interesting and helpful.
Facts About Older Road Users
Who do we classify as ‘elderly’ drivers? Although we oftentimes think of people that are older than 65 as elderly, I have seen some 85 year-olds that can run rings around certain 40 year-olds! So as we say – age is not a number, and the ageing process happens to treat us all pretty differently. This also means that driving skills and physical and mental abilities vary greatly among people of the same age group. Here are some more age-related facts:
- In the United States, one out of five drivers is 65 years old or older.
- The number of older adults reporting medical problems that make it difficult to drive is twice that of people aged 24 to 64.
- Nearly four out of five older adults take one or more medicines daily. Physical changes can affect how the body reacts to medicine, causing more side effects and affecting one’s ability to concentrate and drive safely.
- In 2019 there were nearly 8,000 people over 65 killed in traffic related incidents, and more than 250,000 were treated in emergency departments for their injuries. Every day there are more than 20 older people killed and nearly 700 injured, in car related accidents.
Understanding traffic laws and road signs is not enough to ensure driver safety. When you get older, physical changes can make certain actions more difficult, such as moving your foot from the gas pedal to the brake pedal. Still, older drivers can remain safe on the road. Car Rental Reviews have compiled a few tips for driving when you reach ‘that’ age.
7 Tips for Older Road Users
We’ve clarified that people experience the act of growing older differently, and that our bodies also act in ways we are not accustomed to as age smothers our bodies (an issue that younger drivers don’t have to contend with!). While you have some vigor left after a day of work and want to unwind with a cold one, keep on reading about our summer travel tips. Its not all doom and gloom though – here are a few hints that will keep you on the road for longer:
- Maintain an active lifestyle – Exercise improves your strength and flexibility. By increasing your physical fitness, you will be able to handle the steering wheel more easily, look over your shoulder to change lanes, and make other movements while driving.
Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. One great way to do this is by walking and by doing exercise that get you from sitting to standing, can improve mobility in and out of a car. Older drivers can benefit from strengthening and stretching exercises, as well. Make sure your doctor signs off on you increasing your activity level if you have been sedentary.
- Examine your hearing and vision regularly – Hearing and vision are two senses that decline with age.
- The diminished ability to hear an approaching emergency vehicle or train is a concern for older drivers.
- Vision problems associated with aging, including cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, can make it difficult to drive at night or see clearly. Schedule regular eye and hearing tests with your doctor and stick to the recommended schedule, no matter how well you think you see and hear. Detecting problems as early as possible will increase your chances of having them corrected, and specialists can make timely adjustments to reduce your risk of accident. A doctor of optometry or ophthalmology, for example, may advise driving only during daylight hours. Here are the Worst Traffic Cities in America, where the older driver may just find driving a bit more taxing.
- Manage medications – Even when you’re feeling fine, many medications – including tranquilizers, sleep medications, pain relievers, and cold remedies – can impair driving safety. Understand the side effects of your medications before taking them and in case of dizziness or drowsiness, don’t drive and if you are in doubt – call your pharmacist.
- Taking into account your physical limitations and adjust as needed. As an example, a steering wheel cover can make turning the wheel and holding the steering wheel more comfortable if your hands hurt. Your doctor can refer you to an occupational therapist who can suggest assistive devices to help you drive or suggest exercises to help you overcome your limitations.
Changing your vehicle or choosing a different one might be the best option for you as often, older drivers prefer vehicles with larger, easier-to-read dials on the dashboard. Newer models also offer safety features like safety lane changes, blind spot management and more, so you can avoid collisions. Why not let Car Rental Reviews help you find something safe and easy to drive, like a new Tesla perhaps? Driving a New Car: It’s An Adjustment, is a must read if you are going to drive a car that is different to what you are used to.
- Drive when the roads, and you, are in good condition – Driving during daylight hours, in good weather, on quiet roads, and in familiar areas can improve your driving safety. If there is bad weather, consider public transport or delay your trip.
Drive when you are in a good condition, and by this I mean, do not drive when you are tired, upset or angry. Do not drive if you have consumed alcohol or anything else that alters your state of mind, this includes marijuana – even if you were prescribed it for medical purposes.
- Focus on the road and put your cellphone away – Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents, so plan ahead so you can stay focused. Enter your destination before you begin driving if you are using a GPS device and while you’re driving, don’t do anything that distracts you from keeping your focus on the road..
Road Safety and Older Road Users – Not the end of the Road
When it comes to road safety and the elderly, getting old does not mean that you need to stop driving, or living. Many older drivers navigate our roads safely on a daily basis, and by following our helpful guidelines above, you may just stay free and mobile a couple years longer. If you are looking at a more comfortable vehicle, why not rent? Car Rental Reviews will partner you with the right car, and company, for safe driving no matter your age!