The American Occupational Therapy Association has designated the week of December 4-8 as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. 

Why have a week dedicated to specifically to older drivers? Because adults over the age of 65 represent 40.1 million licensed drivers (National Highway Safety Administration).  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 6,800 older adults were killed in traffic accidents, while over 260,000 older adults were sent to emergency rooms for treatment. As the number of older adults continues to grow, so will these numbers.

That’s why this week—older driver safety week– is so important. We all know people of different ages who should not be driving, but that is very different from asking someone who just turned 65 to turn in their drivers’ license.  

 Driving is not always about age—it is also about ability. What does that mean? It means that determining whether one should be driving depends on an assessment of health issues and medications. (Senior Driving, American Automobile Association).  Physical and mental health issues, as well as medications will impact not only the driver, but the safety of everyone else on the road. All drivers are responsible for maintaining good physical and mental health for the safety of others, and if they want to help extend their driving years.

What can you do? The AAA recommends:

1.     Keep yourself physically and mentally challenged. Take exercise classes, walk with friends, stay socially active, and keep your brain engaged.

2.     Sign up for older adult driver classes. There are a variety of classes available in the community that offer driving courses specifically for seniors. These classes provide the opportunity to keep driving skills fresh, learn about the implications of medications and driving, review safe driving tips, implement comfort tips behind the wheel, and understand which physical changes affect driving.

3.     Make sure your car is in good condition, and has the latest safety features. New features can help you parallel park, alert you when a car is close by, and provide backup cameras for greater visual awareness.

4.     Know your options when it is time to drive less often, or stop driving entirely. There are many transportation choices to help keep you socially active and engaged. Learn what they are before you need them.

And–watch out for self-driving cars! Probably the most exciting innovation we will see within five years will be driverless cars, expanding choice and independence for everyone.

Remember, keeping our roads safe is everyone’s responsibility. We all have a responsibility to be safe drivers, and use other transportation options when our abilities change.

Stay safe out there!