How Does Advanced Age Affect Driving Safety?

It is an unfortunate stereotype that older people are universally poor drivers. Like most stereotypes, it is not true for everyone – there are some excellent older drivers who stay behind the wheel well into their 90s. But, like most stereotypes, this one is based on some observed patterns.

Many older drivers do struggle with safety for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, technology can help compensate for some of those deficits.

Medical Issues and Health Problems

Advanced age typically comes with health problems that can impact sensory perception, reaction times, cognitive and memory acuity and more. These may include:

  •         Degenerating eyesight, making it harder to read road signs and avoid pedestrians
  •         Hearing issues, making it harder to hear squealing brakes, police sirens and other warnings
  •         Slower reaction times
  •         Lapses in memory and attention, leading to navigational difficulty and a higher risk of accidents
  •         Sometimes-undiagnosed cognitive disabilities like dementia and Alzheimer’s
  •         Reduced body mobility, making it harder to get in/out of a vehicle, turn your head to check blind spots or perform other necessary driving tasks

With deteriorating health comes medical issues, many of which require the use of prescription medications. These medications can make users drowsy or impair judgment.

Technology and Adaptations Can Help

Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designates a week in December as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. The NHTSA notes that there are numerous technological advances that can make driving safer for older Americans, as well as adaptive technologies. These include:

  •         Blind-spot warning systems (that include both blinking lights and an audible alert)
  •         Lane-drift warning systems
  •         Back-up cameras
  •         Collision warning systems with automatic emergency braking
  •         Rear view mirrors with greater magnification
  •         Swivel seats to make it easier to get into and out of a car
  •         Pedal extenders
  •         Grip bars to help get in and out of the vehicle
  •         Glare-reducing windshield visors or specialized sunglasses

When To Discuss An End To Independent Driving

If you have a parent or other loved one who is in his or her later years, having a talk about safe driving is not easy. No one wants to give up the freedom and independence that comes with a license and a car. That’s why it’s a good idea to start the conversation before you become aware of problems. Ask questions, such as:

  •         What are some warning signs that might make you hesitant to keep driving?
  •         Have you had any car accidents or near misses in recent years?
  •         Do you ever feel overwhelmed by reading road signs or other aspects of driving that never previously bothered you?
  •         Do you sometimes forget where you are headed while already on the road?
  •         Have you ever forgotten a route that you’ve known for years?

Hopefully, by having this conversation early and regularly, you can help your loved one make healthy decisions on his or her own, without requiring intervention. Being willing to plan ahead and endure some discomfort now could just save a life. However, if you or our older loved one was injured in a car accident, contact a car accident lawyer in Salt Lake City, UT as soon as possible.


Thanks to Rasmussen & Miner for their insight into personal injury claims and advanced aged drivers.