They are our parents, grandparents, and neighbors down the street. Maybe we see them in ourselves. Here at NHTSA, we make safety a top priority for all drivers, and Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (December 1–7, 2019) gives us the perfect opportunity to discuss the special safety concerns of older drivers. NHTSA and their many partners from the American Occupational Therapy Association, AARP, AAA, and the CDCencourage drivers and their families to begin a “transportation plan,” much like what many are encouraged to do for retirement.
While some motorists can drive safely into their nineties, for others medical conditions, problems with eyesight, sleep, tremors, or memory can make driving more dangerous. Ask yourself, or the older driver in your life: Can you remember the routes you frequently drive? Do traffic signs and signals, or other motorists make you feel overwhelmed while driving? Have you recently received a ticket or citation for a driving violation, or been in a minor crash? Many older people take multiple medications, whether prescribed or over-the-counter. Unfortunately, some of these drugs or a combination of drugs, can impair judgement, or affect reflexes or the alertness necessary for safe driving. An older driver’s primary care provider or pharmacist can determine if an older driver’s medications can affect their driving.
Many vehicles can be modified to accommodate an older driver’s specific needs by adding adaptive equipment. This equipment can be as simple as a swivel seat for more convenient access, a hand control to make it easier to operate a vehicle, or a pedal extender. Make sure you help the older driver in your life find a qualified mobility dealer that can provide the training necessary to use the equipment.
Each year, vehicle manufacturers release new and improved driver assistance technologies to help keep road users safer. The technologies include everything from automatic vehicle braking to backup cameras and blind-spot detectors. Driver assistance technologies aren’t just about keeping drivers safe; they also keep pedestrians and other road users safe.
The bottom line is this: Everyone should have the freedom to travel as they see fit, as long as they are able to safely do so. NHTSA offers free educational resources for older drivers and older drivers’ caretakers to help ensure everyone can enjoy their later years to the fullest. This Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, spread the word about our educational material and help keep your loved ones safe. For more information, visit NHTSA.gov/OlderDrivers.