Maybe it’s the elderly gentleman going 50 on the highway. Maybe it’s the sweet old lady who slows…way…down…to…turn. Maybe your mother has trouble distinguishing red lights from brake lights at night, or maybe you do. The point is, driving requires certain physical abilities that tend to diminish with age. Most of us will eventually ask the uncomfortable question: How old is too old to drive?
The Worst Drivers?
First of all, a few facts. Despite popular belief, senior drivers (age 65 to 80) are actually safer drivers than the 18 to 29 age group. As a whole, seniors tend to be more aware of their limitations and act accordingly. They drive less after dark, obey the speed limit, and don’t drink (or text!) and drive.
However, age-related conditions like arthritis, diminished eyesight, and slower reaction times mean driving does get more difficult with age. The likelihood of being involved in a fatal accident begins to rise at age 70. At age 85 and older, the risk of being in a fatal accident is the highest among all age groups. The risk is mostly born by the elderly themselves. Due to osteoporosis, heart disease, and other ailments, older drivers simply more fragile. By the time a driver reaches age 80, the accident-related death rate is 17 times higher than it is for other age groups.
And yet, most of us will continue to drive for as long as possible. Why? Because driving equals freedom. Until city planners figure out a better way, most Americans still need a combustion engine to get to the grocery story.
Help Is Available for Senior Drivers
Fortunately, there is a wide array of assistance available for older drivers. Newer, mid-priced cars now come with rearview cameras, lane drift sensors, parking assist, and collision warning systems. For the one third of seniors who know how to operate a smart phone, Uber or Lyft can be a great option. For those who don’t, taxis still exist, too. Most insurance companies offer discounts to seniors who take safe driving classes or agree to limit their driving to certain hours, like daylight only. Driving may grow more challenging with age, but no one wants seniors to be stuck at home all day.
Let’s Be Patient!
After all, those with no patience for the older lady going 5 miles under the speed limit are simply those who have not yet felt the hand of time upon their own shoulders. With any luck, someday we’ll all be seniors. Here’s hoping we’ll still be able to get around, too.
Article by Molly Fuscher