We’ve all heard the statistics about how younger drivers are typically more likely to be involved in motor vehicle collisions. It makes sense, and it’s something we have been told, well, since we were old enough to drive. Of growing concern, however, are the drivers at the other end of the spectrum: “older drivers,” defined as drivers 65 years of age and older. This will become more of an issue as the baby boomers continue to age. . . and drive. Some recent findings are cause for concern:
In 2008, more than 5,500 older adults were killed and more than 183,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. This amounts to 15 older adults killed and 500 injured in crashes on average every day.
There were 33 million licensed older drivers in 2009, which is a 23 percent increase from 1999.
Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. More than five times as many people 70 years and older were killed on motorcycles in 2008 than in 1997.
Of the 708 traffic fatalities reported in Washington State in 2008, 86 (12.1%) involved drivers aged 65 and older. This is slightly higher than the national average of 11.1%. Surprisingly, it is Vermont that has the highest percentage of fatalities involving drivers over the age of 65 (18.6%), and not the typical “retirement states” of Florida (11.2%), Arizona (11.2%) and New Mexico (9%). Lousiana had the lowest percentage of fatalities involving drivers over the age of 65 (7.9%).
A recent survey done by the Centers for Disease Control found that older drivers tend to limit or self-restrict their driving during certain conditions:
Of the current drivers, about 57% of men and 81% of women reported that they avoided driving under certain conditions. Respondents most commonly limited their driving at night and in bad weather. One-third of older men and two-thirds of older women stated that they avoided driving under each of these conditions.
Other findings included:
Only 9% of older men, but 34% of older women, reported avoiding driving on highways or high-speed roads.
A third of older men and 44% of older women reported avoiding driving in heavy traffic.
About 10% of older men and 15% of older women reported cutting back on driving due to a physical problem in the last year.
Of those that cut back on driving due to physical problem, 40% cited vision-related issues as a reason.
If you are a driver age 65 or older, you can reduce your risk of getting in a motor vehicle collision by doing the following:
- Avoid driving in conditions of poor visibility, high traffic or high speed areas, such as freeways.
- Avoid driving while on medications that affects reaction times or mental alertness – if in doubt about which medications may affect your ability to drive then consult your doctor.
- Exercise regularly to increase your strength and flexibility
- Leave more room when following vehicles to allow a greater reaction time.
- Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and wear corrective lenses when required.
If you know of an older driver that is having difficulty driving in certain conditions or has had a recent collision, talk to them and voice your concerns. You may end up saving their life and the lives of others.