Older Driver Safety and Transportation Options

Transportation and Living "Well Beyond 60!"Being able to get around in your community is a critical part of remaining independent and healthy. It helps us feel connected and lets us access opportunities to contribute to our community in meaningful ways. It is also crucial to maintain our physical and emotional well-being.

Most Americans age 70 or older have a driver's license (nearly 90 percent of men and 80 percent of women in that age group). As we age, multiple factors - from cost to physical and mental ability - can make driving more challenging. Making the decision to stop driving is rarely easy, but may be the safest thing to do in some cases.

How Your Driving Ability Changes

Factors that can affect an older driver's safety

As we age, our bodies continue to change, often in ways that affect our ability to do things we once found easy. Some of the most common changes that can impact an older driver's safety include:

  • Vision changes, especially the ability to read road signs and see in low-light and high-glare conditions;
  • Impaired or decreased hearing ability;
  • Changes in weight or posture;
  • Muscle stiffness or weakness, particularly in the neck, arms and legs;
  • Medications or medical conditions that cause dizziness, drowsiness or loss of concentration;
  • Slower reaction time;
  • Changing weather conditions, such as rain, ice and snow; and
  • Fear of driving and traffic.

In addition, if you've owned your car for a long time, it may not fit your needs as well as it once did. It may be too big or too small, or the seats, steering wheel and mirrors may not adjust enough for you. Many newer cars are designed with older drivers in mind and include optional or standard equipment that increase driver safety, such as cameras, sensors and driver-assist technology.

Safe Driving

Older Driver Safety

The Ohio State Highway Patrol offers these recommendations for most older drivers:

  • Stay aware of changing physical and perceptual abilities and adjust driving habits;
  • Do not drive too slowly (this can be as unsafe as speeding);
  • Avoid busy roadways and rush hours whenever possible;
  • Ask the doctor or pharmacist if medicine you take could affect your driving; and
  • Take a class in defensive driving, particularly one geared toward older drivers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends:

  • Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Have your vision checked at least once a year, and wear glasses or corrective lenses as prescribed.
  • 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, intersecetions 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.

Check out: "Stay Fit to Drive," a publication of the Ohio Department of Transportation

Deciding Not To Drive

According to AARP, it may be time to consider alternatives to driving if you or your loved one experiences any of the following:

  • Difficulty staying in the lane of travel;
  • Frequent dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.;
  • Trouble judging gaps in traffics at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps;
  • Increased negative interactions with other drivers (i.e., honking, gestures, etc.);
  • Reluctance of friends or relatives to ride along;
  • Getting lost more often;
  • Difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight ahead;
  • Trouble paying attention to or violating signals, road signs and pavement markings;
  • Slower response to unexpected situations; or
  • Increased reliance on mirrors to check behind and alongside the vehicle.

If you are concerned that an older loved one is no longer able to drive safely, AARP recommends you bring the subject up in a supportive manner. Talk about things he or she can do to stay on the road safely. Often, just talking about the issue and your concerns can help him or her recognize a need for improvement.

If you feel a loved one's driving ability presents an immediate danger, involve others in the discussion. A doctor, clergy member or friend may have more impact. As a last resort, contact the Ohio Highway Patrol (1-877-7-PATROL) to report dangerous driving. You can do so anonymously and authorities will contact the driver to schedule a driving test to evaluate his or her ability.

Community Transportation Options

Community Transportation Options for Seniors

The decision about how to best get around safely is made a little easier when you are aware of community transportation options that can help meet your needs. Many older Ohioans are fortunate to live in communities with transportation options. These can include:

  • Free or low-cost driver training for mature drivers;
  • Convenient and safe walking paths to shopping and health care;
  • Public transit (including bus routes and taxi service);
  • Senior transportation programs; and
  • Ride-sharing options like Uber and Lyft.

 

Transportation Assistance in Your Community

Cost and access can be barriers to transportation for some older adults. Your community may offer programs that help older adults make essential trips to medical appointments, business errands, shopping and other activities. These services may be free, supported by donations or have a sliding-scale fee based on your ability to pay. Options vary by community. They can include direct services, such as bus and car rides, or financial assistance, such as bus passes or taxi vouchers.

Your area agency on aging or senior center can help you identify available transportation services in your area and that are right for your situation.