Senior Citizen Driver Safety
As we age, it's normal for our driving abilities to change. By reducing risk factors and incorporating safe driving practices, many of us can continue driving safely long into our senior years. But we do have to pay attention to any warning signs that age is interfering with our driving safety and make appropriate adjustments. Even if you find that you need to reduce your driving or give up the keys, it doesn't mean the end of your independence. Seeking alternative methods of transportation can offer health and social benefits, as well as a welcome change of pace to life.
AARP Driver Safety Classes
This course is the nation’s first refresher course specifically designed for drivers age 50 and older, revising your driving skills and knowledge of the rules of the road.
|Medical related appointments only
|Medical Appointment Only
|Medical and incidental transportation
|Wood and Lucas County
|Home Instead Senior Care
|Wheelchair and stretcher
|Medical appointments only to cancer treatment
|Curb to curb service
|Available to everyone
|Ride Right Perrysburg Transit
|Available to everyone
|Black and White Cab
|Taxi service, 24/7, ADA accessible
|Para Transit Service
|BG Airport Shuttle
|Curb to curb, no wheelchair
|BGSU Shuttle Service
|Set route, ADA accessible
|Bowling Green community member
|Para transit service
|The Veterans Administration
|Wood County Veterans Only
|Door to door service
|Wood County Committee on Aging
|Wood County residents ages 60+
|Wood County Department of Jobs and Family Services
|Medial/Dental and RX pickup
|Right at Home Seniors on the Move
|Must be able to get out of van with minimal assistance
|Seneca County Agency Transportation
|Curb to curb
|Share A Ride
|24 hour notice
|Available to everyone
|419.241.1919 ext. 132
|Door to door
|Available to everyone
|St. Luke's Hospital Courtesy Van
|24 hour notice
|Scheduled testing or treatment at ProMedica St. Luke's Hospital
Everyone ages differently, so there is no arbitrary cutoff as to when someone should stop driving. However, older adults are more likely to receive traffic citations and get into accidents than younger drivers. In fact, fatal crash rates rise sharply after a driver has reached the age of 70. What causes this increase? As we age, factors such as decreased vision, impaired hearing, or slowed motor reflexes may become a problem.
Find the right car
Choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. Keep your car in good working condition by visiting your mechanic for scheduled maintenance. Be sure that windows and headlights are always clean. An occupational therapist or a certified driving rehabilitation specialist, for example, can prescribe equipment to make it easier to steer the car and to operate the foot pedals. Check out Smart Features to help find the right vehicle that fits your needs.
In these days of cell phones, GPS devices, and digital music players, drivers are even more distracted than they used to be. This means you’ll want to take extra steps to drive safely, like leaving adequate space for the car in front of you, paying extra attention at intersections, and making sure you are driving appropriate to the flow of traffic. Avoid distractions such as talking on the phone while driving or trying to puzzle out a map, even if it’s a GPS on the car; pull over instead.
Make sure you allow sufficient braking distance. Remember, if you double your speed—say from 30mph to 60mph—your braking distance does not become twice as long, it becomes four times as far, even more if the road is wet or icy.
Know your limitations
If a driving situation makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many older drivers voluntarily begin to make changes in their driving practices. If fast-moving traffic bothers you, consider staying off freeways, highways, and find street routes instead. You may also decide to avoid driving in bad weather. If you are going to a place that is unfamiliar to you, it is a good idea to plan your route before you leave so that you feel more confident and avoid getting lost.
Listen to the concerns of others
If relatives, friends, or others begin to talk to you about your driving, it may be time to take a hard, honest look at your driving ability. You might choose to brush up on your driving through a refresher course. AARP Driver Safety Classes offers the first refresher course specifically for drivers 50 and older.
Talk to your doctor. Your doctor should also be able to provide an opinion about your ability to drive safely, or refer you to a specialist for more intensive evaluation.
Other Safe Driving Tips
Seniors should avoid driving during times of high sun glare. The sun’s glare can be so blinding that it can cause existing vision problems to multiply. The sun’s glare is the brightest at specific times in the morning and the evening. The first 45 minutes after the sun rises are the most dangerous periods for sun glare. The glare returns in the evening about an hour to 45 minutes before the sun goes down for good. Seniors should wear shades if they must drive during these times.
A senior driver should avoid nighttime driving because it requires the most vision processing. A senior driver can plan to take grocery store runs and other errand drives before the sun sets in the evening. Limiting the driving to night fall can ensure that a driver has a maximum amount of illumination.
A driver should always stay a safe distance away from a vehicle’s steering wheel. The driver’s chest should be at least 10 inches back from the steering wheel. The reason for the distance is safety. A senior can suffer severe damages if an accident occurs while that person’s chest is close to the steering wheel. The senior may suffer from a crushed chest or a severe injury from an airbag that releases too closely to the face.
A senior citizen should use prescribed medical devices such as hearing aids and eyeglasses to enhance their driving experience. Some people do not like to wear their glasses or hearing aids for cosmetic reasons, but such is wrong. A driver should not leave the home and drive at any time without those devices. A hearing aid could be the device that saves someone from an accident because of a honking horn.
All drivers should wear their seatbelts at all times, but seniors should take special care of themselves. Without a seat belt on, a senior can suffer fatal damages from a mild automobile accident.
Keeping the windows clean is a good way to ensure that vision is as clear as possible. A bottle of Windex and a rag can go a long way when it comes to driver safety. The vehicle will most likely have a window cleaning spray in its reservoir, as well.
Inclement weather increases the likelihood of an accident for anyone who is driving. A senior citizen may want to stay in the home during times of heavy rain, snowfall, hail and the like. The senior should not take any trips that are unnecessary during such times.
Poor posture is a common cause of automobile accidents. A driver can miss a necessary reaction if he or she maintains poor driving posture. The best way that a senior citizen can stay safe is by straightening the back and keeping the eyes above the steering wheel at least three inches.
Another tip for safe driving is to adjust the rear view mirrors. Many drivers forget that they need to adjust the two mirrors outside the door. The side view mirrors are important because they determine the amount of blind spot that the driver has to endure. The blind spot is the area that can end up causing an accident if the driver cannot see it. Blind spot accidents mostly occur when people try to change lanes without good clearance. Adjusting the side view mirrors can help a senior citizen to protect himself or herself from an unnecessary vehicle collision. The driver will want to reach out and turn the mirrors to the left and the right until he or she can see a vehicle in the background.
Certain times of the day are generally more dangerous for everyone, not just senior citizens. An elderly driver will want to avoid the morning and night time rush hour times. The morning rush hour period lasts between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. the evening rush hour period lasts between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Weekend travel is always heavy during Saturday nights and Sunday morning. A driving senior will want to avoid driving during those times to increase safety and security.
Distracting activities are activities that take the focus off the road. They include activities such as text messaging, talking on a cell phone, applying makeup, watching television, looking at the GPS, and talking to someone in the car. Some accidents do occur because drivers turn their heads toward the back to talk to passengers. A young person can have an accident in less than five seconds because of a distracting activity. An elderly person’s time frame is shorter than that. The inside of the vehicle should be completely silent so that the driver can focus on the road in front of him or her.
An elderly driver should ensure that he or she stays the appropriate stopping distance behind vehicles. The usual safe stopping distance is approximately two car lengths. A senior driver may want to give other drivers a little more room. Three car lengths is an excellent stopping distance for an older driver. The driver may want to add an additional car length during rainfall.
The highways are some of the busiest and scariest roads of them all. An elderly person will want to try to avoid getting on the highways, especially during rush hour. The person should choose an alternative route if it is at all possible. Residential roads and alternative routes are best because the driver will not have to share the road with too many other drivers.
As the Baby Boomer generation ages, more elderly drivers are out on America’s roadways. Senior citizens (people over age 65) can be very good drivers, but as their vision, hearing and motor skills worsen, the incidence of motor vehicle accidents increases. In 2012, there were 5,560 people 65 and older killed and 214,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These elderly individuals comprised 17 percent of all traffic deaths and 9 percent of traffic injuries in 2012.
There are several ways to prevent crashes involving older drivers. One way is to adapt motor vehicles for the needs of senior drivers. As technology advances, it becomes more practical for seniors to drive safely and remain independent. Some age related driving difficulties are easily remedied – such as a swiveling driver seat. Others, such as hand controls for physically handicapped drivers take some training, but can be highly effective. Some of these costs can be covered by insurance or by nonprofit organizations. Evaluating individual driver needs and working with professionals to choose appropriate adaptation devices can enable elderly drivers to maintain their driving freedom without endangering themselves or others on the road.
It is also sometimes necessary to understand and influence older drivers, whether they be family members, friends, or neighbors. Sometimes this could just be checking in to make sure that the older person is properly maintaining their vehicle so that it runs with optimum performance. If you are approaching senior status, or have elderly family members, try to be as objective as possible and gather information. In many cases, having an honest conversation with a medical professional can help a family or elderly driver decide their future driving plans. Having conversations with an older driver may be awkward for you or embarrassing for them, but it is imperative to ensure the safety of all people sharing the road.
Remember, a person’s driving performance is what determines their fitness to drive. Although age can be a good reason to begin watching for signs of dangerous driving, it is not a firm or foolproof indicator. An 80-year-old driver may perform much better than a 23-year-old driver. Safety should be the number one priority of all drivers, so it is best to work with the elderly driver, his or her family, and possibly medical professionals to determine the best steps for his or her future.
When should a senior citizen stop driving?
Because of the number of accidents that involve seniors on the road, some states are trying to implement regulations that would revoke driving privileges from senior citizens or at least require them to take special tests after they reach a certain age. Senior rights organizations argue that such regulations are discriminatory. States that already have such regulations in place are Florida, Georgia and Illinois. Those three states require their older citizens to take eye exams after they reach a certain age. Illinois senior drivers who are older than 87 years old must renew their licenses every year. Certain signs and signals indicate to a senior or elderly driver that the time to stop driving may have approached.
Common signs that a senior should stop driving are:
- Missing traffic signs
- Easy distractions
- Multiple traffic violation tickets
- Upsetting other drivers frequently
- Slow response
- Getting lost during travels
- Multiple close calls
- Hesitation or reluctance to drive
Talking with a loved one about their driving concerns
Driver safety can often be a sensitive issue for older drivers. A driver’s license signifies more than the ability to drive a car; it is a symbol of freedom and self-sufficiency. Understandably, driving is not a privilege that anyone wants to relinquish willingly. Still, safety must come first.
Some older drivers may be aware of their faltering ability but still be reluctant to give up driving completely. Another person’s concerns may force the senior driver to act. They may even feel relieved to have someone else help make the decision to stop driving. Some seniors may forget that they aren’t supposed to drive. If that is the case, it is even more important to remove the car or the keys to make it impossible to drive. If you find yourself in the position of talking to an older friend or family member about their driving, remember the following:
- Be respectful. For many seniors, driving is an integral part of independence. Many older adults have fond memories of getting a driver’s license. At the same time, don’t be intimidated or back down if you have a true concern.
- Give specific examples. It’s easier to tune out generalizations like “You just can’t drive safely anymore.” Outline concerns that you have noticed, such as “You have a harder time turning your head than you used to,” or “You braked suddenly at stop signs three times the last time we drove.”
- Find strength in numbers. If more than one family member or close friend has noticed, it’s less likely to be taken as nagging. A loved one may also listen to a more impartial party, such as a doctor or driving specialist.
- Help find alternatives. The person may be so used to driving that they have never considered alternatives. You can offer concrete help, such as researching transportation options or offering rides when possible. If your family member is reluctant to ask for help, it can lead to isolation and depression.
- Understand the difficulty of the transition. Your loved one may experience a profound sense of loss having given up driving. Don’t dismiss their feelings but try to help with the transition as much as possible. If it is safe, try slowly transitioning the senior out of driving to give them time to adjust.
CarFit General Information
CarFit is an educational program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles "fit" them. The CarFit program also provides information and materials on community-specific resources that could enhance their safety as drivers, and/or increase their mobility in the community.
The Importance of CarFit
Older drivers are often the safest drivers in that they are more likely to wear their seatbelts, and less likely to speed or drink and drive. However, older drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously injured when a crash does occur due to the greater fragility of their aging bodies. (Source: NHTSA)
Driver safety programs improve adult driver safety by addressing cognitive abilities and skills, however, older drivers can also improve their safety by ensuring their cars are properly adjusted for them. A proper fit in one's car can greatly increase not only the driver's safety but also the safety of others.
What to Expect at a CarFit Session
At a CarFit event, a team of trained technicians and/or health professionals work with each participant to ensure they "fit" their vehicle properly for maximum comfort and safety. A CarFit check takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. CarFit Technicians are instrumental to a successful CarFit event. CarFit Technicians assist senior driver participants with check-in, check-up and check-out at the events.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is CarFit?
CarFit is a community-based educational program that promotes continued safe driving and mobility among older drivers by focusing attention on safety, comfort and fit. CarFit was created in 2006 in collaboration with AAA (American Automobile Association), AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
What are the Objectives of the CarFit program?
The program is designed to help older drivers find out how well they currently fit their personal vehicle, to highlight actions they can take to improve their fit, and to promote conversations about driver safety and community mobility. A proper fit in one's personal vehicle can greatly increase not only the driver's safety but also the safety of others.
In What Ways Can CarFit Improve Road Safety?
Three quick examples underscore the importance of road safety to the CarFit program, which reviews twelve key areas of the driver's fit to the personal vehicle.
- Example one: Knowing how to properly adjust one's mirrors can greatly minimize blind spots for drivers who may wish to change lanes.
- Example two: Good foot positioning on the gas and brake pedals is important. If the driver is reaching with his or her toes to press on the pedals, it can cause fatigue in one's leg and slowed reaction times.
- Example three: Drivers run a risk of serious injury if they are sitting closer than 10 inches to the steering wheel.
Is CarFit effective?
CarFit was pilot tested in 10 cities in the spring of 2005 with more than 300 older driver participants. Based on findings from the CarFit checklists completed at the events and follow-up surveys of participants, the program appears to be highly effective on multiple fronts. Some of the results show:
- over one-third (37%) had at least one critical safety issue needing addressed.
- one in ten (10%) were seated too close to the steering wheel.
- approximately 20% did not have a line of sight at least 3" over the steering wheel.
In addition, the vast majority of those responding to the survey indicated that as a result of having gone through the CarFit event, they made a change to improve the fit of their vehicle, their use of safety features in their vehicle and/or their willingness to discuss their driving with family and/or health care providers.
How can I become involved in CarFit?
By becoming an Event Coordinator, you will be trained to host CarFit events following proper programmatic procedures. Event Coordinators train CarFit technicians, secure dates and locations for CarFit events, participate in and monitor CarFit events and communicate with the national organizations, AAA, AARP and AOTA. Event Coordinators candidates must have previous experience working as a Technician and attend a training conducted by a CarFit Instructor. Event Coordinators are required to be on site supervising events they have scheduled.
By becoming a CarFit Technician, you will be able to participate in CarFit events hosted by a CarFit Event Coordinator. A half-day training teaches you the three parts of each CarFit event: Check-in, Check-up and Check-out.
How Can Drivers Sign Up for a CarFit Checkup?
Individuals wishing to take part in a CarFit Checkup should click here and look at the calendar of upcoming events. If there are no events listed near you, please check back to this site for new postings by our volunteers. For additional questions, contact email@example.com.
Where can I get pedal extensions or other adaptive equipment?
Modifications that interface with a moving vehicle can pose risk to the driver's safety, as well as exposing the person making the recommendation to risks of liability. Pedal extenders, although they may seem simple actually are a modification that directly impacts the driver's ability to safely and consistently control the vehicle both to accelerate and to stop! Adaptive equipment recommendations should be made with the same caution as advising someone to seek medication. There are extenders that could help you reach the pedals or there are hand controls available that allow you to continue to drive even if your feet can no longer control the pedals. We suggest that a driver seek the expert guidance of a driving rehabilitation specialist trained in assessing the individual's need for equipment and the identification of the equipment that fits both the person and their vehicle.
You can locate a driving rehabilitation specialist by using the specialists directory located at www.aota.org/olderdriver (see specialists directory) or www.aded.net (see CDRS directory). Specialized programs are available in every state, but not necessarily in your community.
Updated: 07/25/2022 04:28PM