Older Driver Facts & Resources:
Older drivers are keeping their licenses longer and driving more miles than in the past, people under age 75 have relatively low crash involvement. However, after age 75, this changes because these drivers may have health conditions or take medications that negatively affect their driving abilities, and this can put them and others on the road at risk.
Senior drivers (also referred to as older drivers) represent a growing segment of America's licensed drivers but face an increased risk of traffic-related injuries and fatalities.
Injury crash rates (per vehicle mile traveled) begin to increase for those aged 70 and up. This older age group are typically involved in over 1,500 crashes annually just in Nebraska. Then there is the heightened risk for older drivers to be involved in a fatal crash, this is largely due to increased vulnerability to injury, rather than a higher likelihood of getting into crashes.
Senior drivers often face significant impairments in three functions that affect driving their driving abilities – vision, cognition and motor function:
- Vision: Adequate visual acuity and field of vision are critical for safe driving but tend to decline with age. Glare, impaired contrast sensitivity and increased time needed to adjust to changes in light levels are problems commonly experienced by mature drivers.
- Cognition: Driving requires a variety of high-level cognitive skills, including memory, visual processing, attention and executive skills. Certain medical conditions (such as dementia) and medications that are common in the older population have a large impact on cognition.
- Motor Function: Motor abilities such as muscle strength, endurance and flexibility are necessary for operating vehicle controls and turning to view traffic. Even prior to driving, motor abilities are needed to enter the car safely and fasten the seat belt. Changes related to age and diseases such as arthritis can decrease an individual's ability to drive safely and comfortably.
Worried about an Older Driver?
Driving is more than just a means of transportation, for many older individuals, the car is a symbol of independence, a means to see family, friends and purchase everyday essentials. However, there are times when one may want to reconsider their need to drive and if it is still safe for them and others on the road. The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can help families and friends have a conversation with an older driver and provide training services
Older drivers adapt.
Mature drivers, for the most part, tend to be aware of their limitations and make adjustments to limit the type of driving they do (Braitman & McCartt, 2008; Molnar et al., 2015). They often limit their driving to daytime and avoid driving at night or during busy traffic periods.
Tips for the Trip.
Every driver, no matter their age, needs to be sure to plan the trip route before you start driving; set your mirrors and radio to avoid distractions; stow your phone for the trip; buckle up each and every trip; and if you are in need of assistance just pull over and dial #55.