Balancing Independence and Motor Vehicle Safety for Elderly Drivers


January 09, 2017

The balance between maintaining independence and safety as motorists grow older is never easy. The ability to drive is often critical to a senior citizen's sense of living independently. However, sometimes seniors experience declines in their sensory perception, including poor eyesight and loss of hearing. Seniors may also experience age-related medical conditions that impact their cognitive abilities like Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Although driving ability is very important for many seniors, the question is how to protect both seniors and others on the road while allowing seniors the maximum amount of independence that is safe.

Studies indicate that advanced age can impair driving ability, but many seniors are better drivers than novice teen drivers. There are over 33 million licensed drivers who are age 65 or older driving motor vehicles across the U.S. Approximately 500 elderly drivers are injured daily in motor vehicle accidents according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During a recent twelve month period, 5,500 elderly drivers died in car accidents while another 183,000 suffered injury.

Despite the physical and mental changes that can occur with age, many adult drivers are safer than teen drivers because they compensate for age-related deficiencies. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) report that the safest drivers are between the ages of 64 and 69 based on accident statistics. Many senior drivers intentionally avoid less than optimal driving conditions, such as driving in inclement weather, heavy traffic or at night. Seniors also tend to drive more cautiously and obey the speed limit. Studies also have shown that many elderly drivers more than compensate for declines in physical ability and mental acuity with better risk perception skills based on longer periods of driving experience.

While factors such as these make elderly drivers safer than novice teen drivers, seniors still have a high crash rate than other age groups based on actual miles driven. While the number of seniors involved in fatal accidents is high statistically based on miles driven, the number has declined by forty percent since 1970. The bottom line is that seniors can be extremely safe drivers, but family should monitor declines in hearing, vision or mental acuity so that they keep elderly loved one's safe.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/older_adult_drivers/

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Category: Auto Accidents

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