One of the hardest privileges for seniors to give up is driving. Driving allows seniors to stay mobile and independent, and also becomes an activity embedded into the daily routine of a person’s life.
Still, studies have shown that the older a driver is, the greater their chances are of being injured in a car accident. With more than 33 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in the U.S., elders behind the wheel are a growing concern–especially with millions more Baby Boomers soon to reach their golden years.
Below are some statistics via the CDC that show just how big of a problem elderly driving can be, and who is at risk:
- In 2008, more than 5,500 older adults were killed and 183,000-plus were injured in crashes, averaging 15 older adults killed and 500 injured in crashes every day.
- In 2009, there were 33 million licensed elderly drivers, a 23 percent jump from 1999.
- Fatal crash rates spike for those 75 and older, and again for those over the age of 80. “This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes,” the CDC notes.
- Other factors that can affect a senior’s driving ability include age-related declines in vision, cognitive functioning, and/or physical changes.
If your elderly loved one is still able to drive but you are worried about their safety, there are a few things any driver can do to improve safety behind the wheel, including:
- Simply put, wearing your seatbelt–no matter what your age is–decreases your risk of injury during a crash.
- Only driving when conditions are safe. “Older drivers tend to limit their driving during bad weather and at night and drive fewer miles than younger drivers,” the CDC reports.
- Don’t drive impaired. Luckily, research has shown that older adults are less likely to drink and drive than younger drivers. Only 5% of senior drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration above .08 grams per deciliter. Compare that to 25% of drivers between the ages of 21 and 64.
Other steps older drivers can take to stay safe on the road include:
- Have a regular exercise routine to increase/maintain strength and flexibility.
- Have your doctor or pharmacist review medications to help reduce side effects and interactions.
- Get a yearly eye exam and always wear glasses or corrective lenses while driving.
- Plan your routes before driving. This will help an older driver find the safest route with well-lit streets, easy-to-navigate intersections, and easy parking.
- Make sure to leave large following distances behind other cars.
- Avoid driving distractions like listening to a loud radio, talking on a cell phone, and eating.
- When available, consider alternatives to driving, such as taking public transportation or riding with a friend.
What are some other measures older drivers can take to stay safe while driving? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments.
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