As more and more baby boomers reach age 65, the number of senior drivers has increased by 32% over the past decade, while traffic fatalities for this group are also up by 30%.
In 2018, drivers 65 and over accounted for 19% of all U.S. fatalities, with 6,907 deaths. Georgia reported 257 seniors died that year on state roadways, for about 17% of all fatal accidents.
Safe driving is not directly tied to any age
Getting older doesn’t automatically mean someone will become a poor or unsafe driver. However, if you are concerned about a family member’s driving abilities, it’s crucial that you don’t ignore potential red flags. Ask yourself these questions about an older loved one’s behavior behind the wheel:
- Are there any new dents or scratches on their vehicle?
- Do they often speed or drive too slowly for no apparent reason?
- Do they get lost on routes that they’ve driven many times?
- Are they taking any medications that could affect their ability to drive?
- Did their doctor advise them to stop or limit their driving?
- Do they suffer from any medical conditions that compromise safety?
- Did they get into a crash or experience a near-miss?
- Did they get a ticket for impaired driving?
Answering “yes” to any of these questions should warrant further inspection and possibly, a serious heart-to-heart with your loved one. These discussions are not easy, as most seniors equate driving to their independence. However, concern doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for a senior to stop driving.
Resources for older drivers
Just as important as identifying potential warning signs of unsafe driving is looking for a solution. In many cases, the unsafe behavior may be caused by changes in vision, lessened reflexes and a decline in physical fitness. Updated eye exams and driving courses may be the answer.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers many resources, such as the Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully guide to help seniors adapt. Additional materials are available from the USAA Educational Foundation and AARP.