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Steps Older Drivers Can Take To Stay Safe on the Road

Close up of senior man holding hands on steering while and driving his car.

Highway experts and family members have always been concerned about drivers aged 70 and above. There has always been a fear that an increase in aging drivers with deteriorating skills would lead to many more fatal car accidents on the nation’s roads. But new research indicates those fears may have been exaggerated somewhat.

In some ways, older drivers have gotten a bad rap. A study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found that drivers aged 70 and older were less likely than drivers aged 35 to 54 to be involved in a fatal car accident. Looking at per miles driven, older adults had better safety records. And in 2017, drivers 70 and over had fewer reported crashes than middle-aged drivers.

Should we be concerned about older drivers?

Older drivers have many years of experience on the road. This often means they have a better ability to assess risks and navigate challenges. Statistically, older drivers are less likely to speed, drive drunk, ignore traffic signs, drive in bad weather, and drive at night.

The authors of the study cite two factors for older drivers having an improved safety record. One factor is that seniors now are healthier than in previous decades. The other is that the vehicles they are driving are much safer. The New York Times also points out that there have been improvements in road design, including better signage and traffic patterns.

Still, there is cause for concern as drivers get older. Dexterity declines, as does flexibility and reaction time. Seniors are more likely to have age-related health issues. These include issues that affect mobility, such as arthritis. Glaucoma, macular degeneration, and glare sensitivity can lead to vision problems. Seniors may suffer hearing loss. There may be cognitive decline or in some cases, dementia.

All of these can impact driving safety. But drivers can still stay safe on the road into old age if they acknowledge changes that affect driving ability, compensate for these changes when possible, and prepare for the time when they can no longer drive safely.

Taking steps to stay safe on the road

“Older drivers are, all in all, very good drivers,” said Brenda Vrkljan, a rehabilitation specialist at McMaster University. “But driving is not a right. It’s a privilege we have to earn; we need to be aware that things change as we get older and we don’t necessarily have the same skills.”

Here are some things older drivers can do to stay safe behind the wheel:

  • Take a refresher course. For example, AAA and AARP have classes on defensive driving. Or drivers can go out with an instructor who can identify limitations.
  • Get an annual eye test. It may need to be more often if a driver has a disorder that affects vision.
  • Get a hearing test. Hearing aids can help compensate if there is hearing loss.
  • Regular physical activity can help, especially exercises to improve strength and flexibility in the neck, calves, and other parts of the body.
  • Buy the safest car you can afford. Models with safety features such as backup cameras and lane-departure warnings can compensate for deficits related to age.
  • Plan for a time when your driving days are over. Or assign someone such as a relative to make that decision.

If you do get into an accident, it’s important to talk to an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Brent C. Miller can help. Our lawyers fight for the rights of clients in Tavares, The Villages, Inverness, Clermont, and surrounding communities. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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