Older Driver Safety Awareness: Keeping Our Loved Ones Safe
In 2021, older adults (65 and older) accounted for approximately 17% of the U.S. population. For this demographic, mobility and independence are essential to staying engaged and active. However, as people age, their physical, visual, and cognitive functions can decline, making them more vulnerable to severe injury or even death when involved in a vehicle crash. Being proactive about safe driving skills, learning ways to identify changes early, and intervening as soon as possible can help older drivers maintain safe mobility. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers information and guidance to help the families and caretakers of older drivers have open and honest discussions with their older loved ones to ensure they are safe on the road for years to come.
Between 2012 and 2021, the United States population of people 65 and older increased by 29%. In 2021, 7,489 people 65 and older were killed in traffic crashes in the United States accounting for 17% of all traffic fatalities. As the older driver population continues to increase on our nation’s roads, NHTSA is dedicated more than ever to promoting safe behaviors of older drivers.
NHTSA encourages family and caregivers to sit down with the older drivers in their life and discuss a “transportation plan” that may help identify alternative transportation options if necessary. Families and caregivers may suggest that older drivers have their vision and hearing checked regularly, and to ask health care providers to review medications for potential interactions. It’s also a good idea for older drivers to plan trips during the daytime when traffic is lighter and it’s easier to see.
Today’s vehicles are equipped with many safety features. Families and caregivers should take time to review vehicle manuals with older drivers, and, if needed, older drivers should always seek assistance to better understand how these features work. There are special adaptive devices to help drivers remain behind the wheel as long as they can do so safely.
Plan for safe mobility beyond the driver’s seat early on before you notice difficulties by exploring alternate transportation options with older drivers. Most importantly, families and caregivers should show compassion for older drivers who may no longer be able to drive. This can be a difficult time for all involved in these conversations. Understanding and empathizing can go a long way in easing the transition.
NHTSA offers free resources on keeping safe as drivers age and provides information about how families and caregivers can create a safe system for all road users whether driving, walking, or cycling. Visit NHTSA at www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/older-drivers.