As a person ages, he or she may experience changes to body and brain that reduce flexibility, result in longer reaction times, and result in reduced cognitive function. Senior citizens who experience the natural effects of aging will eventually become unable to drive as a result of new limitations on their health.

Strict laws designed to keep dangerous older drivers off the road can help prevent accidents caused by elderly drivers. However, people age at different rates and it is also important for an individual senior or his or her family members to determine when it has become unsafe for someone to drive.

Senior Citizens Can Be Dangerous Drivers

Seniors generally tend to support laws, such as texting bans, that are designed to make the roads safer. Recent studies suggest that older Americans will support laws to improve road conditions even if those laws may limit their personal ability to drive. For example, as many as seven out of 10 seniors said they supported laws that required in-person renewals for people 75 and older who wanted to get a driver’s license. Many of the seniors in the survey, who were 65 and up, also said that they believed that people should be required to undergo a medical exam if they wanted to renew a license if they were 75 and up.

Although seniors believe, in general, that older people should get off the roads once they can’t drive safely, it is a lot harder for an individual to make the choice to sacrifice their own mobility. As a result, family members and medical professionals should be watchful of when a person cannot continue to safely drive. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, held from December 1 through December 5 each year, is intended to encourage family members and other relatives and friends to take the time to discuss senior driving safety issues with the older people in their lives. It is suggested to take the following actions during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, or at any time during the year, to help elderly loved ones evaluate their ability to drive safely:

  • Talk to senior family members in a family conference to discuss driving safety issues
  • Evaluate the types of limitations and physical changes that can make it difficult or impossible for a senior to continue to drive safely
  • Explore the possibility of using adaptive devices to extend the amount of time that a senior drives before it becomes unsafe to do so
  • Have a screening done by a qualified medical professional to determine if the senior is still safe to drive or has any limitations that could lead to a collision
  • Create a plan for the future, which will allow a senior to continue to get around when needed, even after driving becomes an impossibility

There is no better time than the present to address driving safety issues with older friends or family members. Taking action to prevent senior citizens from driving when it is not safe could potentially save the lives of your elderly loved one, as well as others on the road.