Tips and advice for yourself and loved ones
Driving represents freedom, connection, and independence. These values don’t change as we age, but our physical and mental abilities to drive may. That’s why the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working to get the word out about safety for older drivers.
The NHTSA’s most recent data show the number of Americans age 65 and older increased by 32% from 2009 to 2018, with crash fatalities in this age group increasing by 30% during the same time period. The administration’s research shows that age is not the sole predictor of driving ability and safety; however, the NHTSA says there is ample evidence that most of us experience age-related declines in our physical and mental abilities—declines that can signal a greater crash risk. Getting older does not necessarily mean a person’s driving days are over, but it’s important to plan ahead to ensure the safety of older individuals on the road.
Answering these questions may help you decide if you need to initiate a conversation with an older driver about driving safely, or even think about issues you may be experiencing:
- Are they getting lost on routes that should be familiar?
- Have you noticed new dents or scratches to the vehicle?
- Have they received a ticket for a driving violation?
- Have they experienced a near miss or crash recently?
- Have they been advised to limit or stop driving due to a health reason?
- Are they overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving?
- Are they taking any medication that might affect driving safely?
- Have they received a ticket for impaired driving?
- Have you noticed them speeding or driving too slowly for no reason?
- Are they suffering from any illnesses that may affect driving skills?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, be prepared to take steps appropriate to the situation, which might include talking with older adults about safe driving, or ceasing driving if necessary while offering alternatives. The administration also suggests having a health professional discuss safety issues or driving concerns with your loved one.
In addition, the NHTSA notes it may be worth exploring vehicle adaptations for yourself or others. New and existing adaptive technologies continue to broaden opportunities for people with disabilities to drive both comfortably and safely.
For questions and advice about an older person’s ability to safely drive, consult a California licensed health professional; for assistance with driving-safety strategies and other daily activities, contact a professional licensed by the California Board of Occupational Therapy; for questions about vehicle safety and adaptive equipment, contact a professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Automotive Repair. You can check a California professional’s license by visiting https://search.dca.ca.gov.
Related Reading: Your Parents Are Moving In: Is Your Home Ready?