When Should Elderly Stop Driving?

Senior citizen driving and seniors involved in traffic accidents has been an issue for many years now, and as our nation senior citizen drivingbecomes more populated, it has become a bigger problem. Senior citizens that are involved in traffic accidents are more common in some of the states where there is a larger older population, such as Florida and Texas. The senior citizen driving statistics suggest these states have higher accident rates for seniors than other states.

There have been many suggestions on what to do about the problem, but quite frankly are new laws and regulations going to solve the problem. Is the answer more seniors driving test once a year? I am sure our government can come up with a solution that no one will like, or we can decide to take it upon ourselves to fix the problem by taking personal responsibility for our actions.

Driving Habits and Statistics

For the most part, seniors are safer drivers than other age groups because they often reduce the risk of injury by using safety belts, following speed limits, and not drinking and driving. However, they are also likely to be injured or killed in traffic crashes due to age-related vulnerabilities, such as fragile bones.

Senior citizens driving statistics show health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses make it more of a challenge for older drivers to recover from any injuries. But for teen drivers, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven, even though they drive fewer miles than younger people.

Fifty percent of the adult population and 80 percent of people in their 70s suffer from arthritis, crippling inflammation of the joints, which makes turning, flexing and twisting painful.

Weaker muscles, reduced flexibility and limited range of motion restrict senior drivers’ ability to grip and turn the steering wheel, press the accelerator or brake, or reach to open doors and windows.

More than 75 percent of drivers age 65 or older report using one or more medications, but less than one-third acknowledged awareness of the potential impact of the drugs on driving performance.

When comparing per miles traveled, fatal crash rates increased beginning at age 75 and rose sharply after age 80. These fatalities are due to the increased risk of injury and medical complications, rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.

Since older drivers are more fragile, their fatality rates are 17 times higher than people in the 25- to 64-year old age group.

The above statistic was provided by seniordriving.aaa.com/

From these numbers, we could assume seniors have much better driving habits than the younger population. But, they are at higher risk of death because of their health or the use of prescription drugs. We also know the problems seniors have with eyesight, and our reflexes are much slower when we get older. The chart below confirms some of these statistics, but it appears to me that the age group 16 – 29 has much the same fatalities as their older compadres over seventy-five.

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Top States

California has the most significant number of retired, but Florida has the highest percentage. Our most populated States are also the ones with the most significant amount of elderly. In 1993, nine States had more than 1 million elderly. California, with 3.3 million, led the way, followed by Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey.

What about traffic accidents and fatalities? In its report states with the worst drivers – 2016 Edition – by smartasset.com, Florida ranks #1 as far as states with the worst drivers, followed by #2 Mississippi. From our list above New Jersey was #4, and Texas was #9 as far as bad drivers and the others were further down the list, and surprisingly California is ranked about 35th in the list.

There are many statistics available to look at as far as senior driving goes and it all depends on which year we are looking at as they go up and down each year. One thing is common in most research, that is Florida has the most percentage of retired people and is ranked #1 as far as the state with the worst drivers, and it has the most seniors involved in traffic fatalities.

California has a high percentage of senior drivers, but as far as senior involvement in traffic accidents it is about the average of all our states. New Jersey is another state with a sizable senior population but has a low rate for senior traffic accidents. Texas is ranked #9 as far as dangerous drivers, has a high percentage of older drivers and has a more significant portion of senior traffic accidents.

Senior Traffic Accidents When and Whysenior citizens driving statistics

The population of older drivers is getting larger because older people are keeping their driver’s licenses longer and, as baby boomers age, they make up a more significant portion of the US population. Because so many seniors have eye problems, more accidents occur at night, as we all know it is hard for your eyes to adjust to the lights and the dark. Also, many accidents happen at sunset or sunrise because at that time of day your eyes are re-adjusting, or the sunlight may be shinning in your face.

During rush hour in the morning or evening ads more complications to the issue, because your eyes are re-adjusting to the sunlight and there is added traffic to deal with. With more vehicles on the road and slower reflexes may cause some to become confused, especially if you have the sunlight shining in your face.

Driving during inclement weather is a problem for anybody any age and I would like to think the majority of seniors know this. If you have difficulty seeing or hearing then one does not want to be out in rain, snow or ice. Most seniors have arthritis, and we all know this slows hand movement or reaction time.

Do Seniors Know When To Quit

Are you at that age where you think it is getting close to the time to hang up that driving hat, or are one of those that states “I am not going to quit until I am six feet under”? Whichever one you are I would like for you to consider this; Understanding the danger signs is the first move in solving the problem of unsafe older drivers on the road. Many seniors are great drivers, but some are not. Indications that you or a loved one may be a dangerous driver include:

  • nervousness or fear while driving
  • exhaustion after driving
  • difficulty interpreting and watching for traffic signs
  • confusing the gas pedal and the brake pedal
  • finding yourself getting lost more often than you used to
  • backing up after missing a highway exit
  • changing lanes abruptly and without looking
  • stopping at green lights and running red lights without knowing it
  • leaving the turn signal on indefinitely
  • an increasing number of fender benders and near-accidents
  • a growing number of dents and scratches on your car
  • people not wanting to drive with you

Asking a person to give up driving is a sensitive subject, and it is probably more difficult for our male population. I know this from experience; my grandfather, no matter what everyone told him, did not stop until his old pickup was covered with dents and his eyesight was so bad that he could hardly read anymore.

The same was true with my father-in-law. It was not until he took out a couple of traffic signs, failed to stop and eventually caught by the sheriff; but I give him credit as he was one of those that was going to give up for nothing. Even after he was instructed to take another driving test, which he did not pass, my wife’s dad still insisted he drive. We had to hide the keys to his dented and beat up pickup.

When you prevent someone from driving you to take away their independence and freedom. Our seniors today lived their lives not depending upon anyone, and it is understandable why they refuse to give up driving. In an ideal situation, a person knows it time to quit. The last thing we want is for the government to get involved and make more rules or regulations.

Our Media

The reason the subject of this blog came up, was the story I heard on our local radio station. They had a story about when should the elderly stop driving; seniors were causing more accidents than others and were looking at our state Motor Vehicle Department to implement new rules and the additional tests for senior drivers. After researching this article, I found no evidence that seniors were causing more problems on the road than any other driver.

Many senior citizens driving statistics vary way too much from state to state and year to year. It is plain to see that younger drivers have as many accidents as seniors, but because seniors have more health issues in their old age, the numbers for deaths caused by traffic accidents are more than those younger drivers. I think any time a radio station or TV station is lacking material for their evening newscast they go into the archives and dig up a story about senior drivers and accidents.

My Thoughts

We do not need more laws, rules or regulations to govern our senior drivers. Just as when the Commercial Drivers License was implemented for the trucking industry, it created fraud and abuse within the Motor Vehicle Department the same will be true here if more test is ordered for seniors.

Seniors and their families should be mature enough and have the common sense to know when it is time to give up the car keys. The younger ones could jump in and help Mom and Pop; driving them to the store, just once a week, would do wonders and help them tremendously! Yes, this is a difficult thing to do, but it is better to do on your own than to let a government official make that decision for you.

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Thank you for reading my article, and I look forward to hearing from you. Please Comment Below!

4 thoughts on “When Should Elderly Stop Driving?

  1. Hi Wayne,
    First, thank you for including a post of mine on the article. Homeostasis is a larger concern as we age as well. Keeping yourself in balance becomes more difficult but not impossible.
    I lost my own driving privileges several years ago now. Which was devastating. It was not due to my age but a seizure disorder. It feels awful to me as I have been driving some type of vehicle since before I was even licensed on the farm I grew up on. Then later in my youth I even ran a drag car in competition. To lose the ability to drive has a large impact on your independence and for me LOVE too. I loved to drive.
    I have been using CBD for 6 months now. My seizure activities have become very limited. 2 in 6 months vs average 4 a week before. I intend to get evaluated for driving in another few months and see if I can restore that in my life.
    However, I will know myself first if it is safe. If I feel like a seizure risk is there I WOULD NOT want to drive again. It puts many people besides myself at risk.
    Thank you for this article. It is very in depth and covers many of the feelings that go through the mind of anyone that risks losing their ability to drive.

    1. Thank you, Christina, for your comments. Yes, it is very hard for someone who has not depended upon anyone for help to suddenly find out they can not drive anymore. I am glad the CBD has helped with the seizures; we can keep hoping it will help to the point that you can drive again, but like you say you will know when the time is right.

  2. Wayne,
    My father drove into his 90’s with out too much trouble. I road with him a couple of times and he had good control and did not scare me. Each person will age differently. The state he lived in made him take a driving test every year to test his skills.
    My sister quit driving when she was 50, she drove by feel when she did drive. If she hit something, she steered the other way. Most of her cars never had door handles after a couple of weeks.
    Each person will handle getting old different, someone needs to tell them when it is time to quit driving.

    1. Hey, John Thank You for your comments. You are so right on, I gave the examples of my Grandfather and Father-in-Law as those were the two that never gave up. My Father on the other hand, when it got to the point he could not see anymore, he handed me the keys. I made time to get him to doctor appointments and take him and my mother shopping if they wanted to go. As you say some know when to quit, others remain good drivers well into their older days, and some just won’t give up. Thanks again and hope to talk soon.

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