As your parents and grandparents age, you might begin to feel worried about them getting behind the wheel. What if they cause an accident or fail to avoid one caused by someone else? After all, older people have slower reflexes, take more medications and begin to lose hearing and sight. So, this must make them more unsafe drivers — right?
Until recently, studies confirmed that older drivers represented one of the most dangerous demographics on the road. A recently published article by AARP now says otherwise.
Are older drivers becoming safer?
Older drivers did rank among the most unsafe for a while, but this changed. Now, seniors over 70 have better driving statistics than middle-aged Americans from 34 to 54 years old. From 1997 to 2018, middle-aged Americans saw a fatal crash decline of 21%, while seniors saw a decline of 43%. Seniors had fewer crashes per mile driven than middle-aged drivers.
What changed among older people?
Older people are becoming healthier than in previous years. They have taken better control of their health and remain more active than in prior years. In fact, the prevalence of more physically fit senior drivers explains why fewer accidents occur. No matter how healthy seniors remain, middle-aged Americans should have better health, so what happened?
What puts middle-aged drivers at greater risk?
Seniors do not become as strongly attached to cellphones as middle-aged Americans. They do better at driving without texting or calling. The detachment from cellphones significantly reduces risks compared to middle-aged drivers. Seniors also tend to live in areas they know well and might not even need GPS to get around.
When it becomes too dangerous for your parent to drive, you may feel that you have to take some action. However, unless you have legal authority to help with decision-making, you may not be able to take the keys. Talking to your parent about the risks and offering to provide transportation may help to convince him or her. If incapacitation is an issue, you may be able to take legal steps.