Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

older man holding steering wheel

via the Takoma Park Police Department

December 4, 2023

The first full week of December is Older driver Safety Awareness Week. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week highlights the vital role that mobility and transportation play to keep older adults active in their communities. The observance recommends that during the first week in December, loved ones of older drivers express concern for their safety.

Remaining active for as long as possible is essential to the independence of older adults. Driving a vehicle helps them to do this. As adults age, however, they experience vision and hearing loss. They may also experience a decline in cognition. These health issues make it unsafe to drive. Older drivers are twice as likely to have a medical problem that makes it difficult to travel.

According to recent statistics from the CDC, there are 44 million licensed drivers over the age of 65. In one year, nearly 7,700 drivers 65 and older died in motor vehicle accidents. More than 257,000 older drivers sustained injuries that required a trip to the ER. Drivers over the age of 75 have an even higher risk of dying or getting injured in a car accident.

Despite these statistics, seniors don’t have to be afraid to drive. They must exercise caution and good judgment. To stay safe while driving, older drivers should always wear their seat belts.

They should also follow these tips:
  • Obey all traffic rules
  • Never drive in inclement weather
  • Avoid driving at night if possible
  • Never drink and drive
  • Plan the route in advance
  • Get vision checked at least once a year

Seniors should also discuss with their doctor how their medical issue might affect their driving. They should also be aware of how the side effects of prescription medications affect their driving. Some medications cause drowsiness or confusion. Older drivers should never feel embarrassed to discuss these matters with their doctor and their loved ones.

A doctor or loved one may determine that it’s no longer safe for them to drive. In this situation, a senior will need to look for alternatives, such as taking public transit or getting a ride from friends and family. Some signs it might be time to quit driving include having too many near-crashes, getting lost while driving, slower reflexes, and difficulty seeing road signs. Knowing when to stop driving keeps everyone safe.

This is the perfect week to talk to your aging loved one about driver safety. Take a ride with them in the vehicle to ensure they are driving safely. If you notice them struggling as they drive, talk to them to see what they can do differently. Maybe all they need is to have their eyeglass prescription updated. Or they might need to make some adaptations to their vehicle. If necessary, you can advise them to take a driver improvement course specifically designed for older drivers.

The American Occupational Therapy Association initiated Older Driver Safety Awareness Week in 2009.  The month of December was chosen as a way for families to discuss driver safety with their older loved ones during the holiday get-togethers.