Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. It connects us to community, friends and family, health care, employment, volunteer opportunities, and other activities and supports necessary for healthy aging.
According to the CDC, in 2018, there were more than 45 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older in the United States. The Summary Assessment of Older Ohioans states that 84% of Ohioans age 65 and older say they drive when they need to go somewhere. Physical and cognitive changes may affect some older adults’ driving abilities. However, vehicles are built safer today than ever before, and older adults tend to take less risks on the road.
Tips for Safe Driving
The Ohio Department of Aging, Ohio Department of Transportation, and AAA Ohio offer these recommendations for most older drivers:
- Wear your seatbelt
- Do not drive too slowly (this can be as unsafe as speeding).
- Avoid busy roadways and rush hours whenever possible.
- Try to do most of your driving during daylight and in good weather.
- Plan your route before you drive.
- Find the safest routes to your destinations with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.
- Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you so that you can react if the other driver stops suddenly.
- Avoid distractions while driving, including talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, or listening to a loud radio.
- Take a class in defensive driving, particularly one geared towards older drivers.
- Discuss any medical issues with your doctor to see if they may affect your ability to drive.
- Ask the doctor or pharmacist if medicine you take could affect your driving.
- Stay aware of changing abilities and adjust driving habits.
- Have your vision checked at least once a year, and wear glasses or corrective lenses as prescribed.
Find additional information about evaluating your driving skills and reducing risks to yourself and others through the Stay Fit To Drive program.
Alternatives to Driving
While many older adults are able to drive safely for most of their lives, some may experience factors that affect their ability to do so. The Summary Assessment of Older Ohioans found that most older Ohioans (65%) are able to get where they want to go all of the time, and more than two out of five (41%) have a spouse, family member, friend or neighbor drive them. Individuals who do not have this type of support can look to their communities for transportation options.
If you believe an older loved one or friend is not safe behind the wheel but continues to drive, it's important to speak up and offer your assistance. Learn how to have this crucial conversation.
Strategies that increase access to affordable, accessible, and reliable transportation are a key part of Ohio's Strategic Action Plan on Aging.