Washington now has 1 million senior drivers on its roads, according to the Seattle Times. In fact, the number of senior drivers age 65 and up has grown by 41 percent since 2010. That growth is occurring three times faster than the rate of drivers overall.
Do Senior Drivers Create Safety Problems on the Road?
Many people assume that once you hit a certain age, you will create a safety issue on the roads. Although some expected the number of fatal car accidents to skyrocket as baby boomers aged, this is not the case.
Seniors tend to exercise better judgment than young drivers about when they should and should not drive. Older drivers self-police by avoiding nighttime or long-distance driving. Angie Ward, of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, suggests these reasons can explain why the number of traffic fatalities among senior drivers has not spiked upward. In fact, drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 cause almost three times as many fatal crashes as seniors do.
What Other Factors Have Improved Safety for Senior Drivers?
Other factors also make senior drivers less likely to cause a wreck. Technological advances mean our vehicles can warn us about impending collisions, can “see” pedestrians and slowed traffic in our path, and can brake for us or take evasive action. In addition, the average senior is in better shape than previous generations. That overall improved health can translate to better driving skills.
Some Seniors Are at an Increased Risk of a Crash
No matter how fit a senior is, some aspects of aging can take a toll. After age 70, your risk of a crash does go up, just not as much as previously predicted. You likely do not have the same range of motion or quick reflexes you had when you were 30. If you take prescription drugs, you should be doubly careful, as many medications affect driving ability.
While we celebrate our seniors and their excellent health, we should also realize that some feel they have no option but to drive, even if their skills have diminished. According to the Seattle Times, women live an average of 10 years after they lose their ability to drive safely. Men live on an average of seven years. With the popularity of ride-sharing apps, such as Uber and Lyft, and increased public transportation, our aging members of society might be able to hang up the car keys without feeling stranded.
There are no automatic age-based driver’s license restrictions in Washington, except for those who are too young to drive. As long as a senior can pass a vision test and answer a few health-related questions to the satisfaction of the driver’s license examiner, no more in-depth exploration of their road skills usually happens until the senior has accidents or moving violations. The state can restrict a driver to only daytime driving and can ban highway driving.
Safety Tips for Aging Drivers
Seniors can reduce their risk of a crash by following these safe driving tips from AARP.
Keep Your Brain Healthy.
First, get a benchmark reading to know your current mental processing status as it relates to driving. Evaluate your problem-solving skills, memory, concentration, reaction time, attention, and ability to process information—measuring both your speed and accuracy. When you know the areas you need to improve to prolong your safe driving years, you can take action. There are cognitive training apps and games that can make it fun to exercise your brain and keep it in good shape.
Take Care of Your Eyesight.
Get regular eye exams by an eye doctor. Do not rely on a free eye exam, unless an eye doctor performs it and administers the additional tests appropriate for your age. Your vision is too precious to trust to someone who is not an expert. Get tested for color blindness, cataracts, glaucoma, depth perception, peripheral vision, and field of vision, too. You need good close-up and distance vision to keep driving safely.
Since seniors tend to make better judgment calls about driving than young drivers, you probably already avoid many common distractions behind the wheel. You should not text, talk on the phone, eat, drink, smoke, or change radio stations while driving.
By following these suggestions, you can stay on the road without creating a safety risk to yourself or others.
What Can You Do to Help Keep Your Aging Loved One Safe Behind the Wheel?
If you have concerns that your aging loved one might be at risk for a crash, sit down and talk with him or her. The legal team at Max Meyers Law has developed safety tips to ensure your loved one remains safe behind the wheel.
If you or your loved one has experienced injuries from an accident, we can help you file a car crash claim for compensation. Call 425-399-7000 today for a free consultation.