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How to Drive Safely When You're an Older Driver

Senior Man Fastening Seat Belt In Car Before Journey

Everyone from highway safety experts to relatives have expressed concern about the driving abilities of older Americans. The uncomfortable question has been, "when is it time to take away a senior driver's license?" New research raises serious doubts about such rationale.

Older, wiser – and safer?

Contrary to popular belief, older drivers do not present the greatest danger on the nation's roads. In fact, a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded drivers 70 and older are less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those between the ages of 35 and 54.

The study, published in the Journal of Safety Research, found a 43% decrease in fatal accidents among drivers 70 and older from 1997 to 2018. That compared to just a 21% decline for middle-aged drivers.

Experts say older drivers:

  • Benefit from experience
  • Are less likely to drink and drive, speed, and ignore road signs
  • Drive less in bad weather and at night
  • Are in better physical condition than previous generations
  • Operate safer vehicles
  • Benefit from improvements in roadway design

There is also the simple fact that individuals age differently. Age, after all, is just a number. Healthy people in their 90s can be significantly better drivers than people in their 70s or much younger who have medical issues.

Driving tips for seniors

Nonetheless, the reality is that time eventually takes a toll on the driving skills of every motorist. These can include the loss of dexterity, flexibility and reaction time, arthritis, glaucoma, macular degeneration, glare sensitivity, hearing loss, cognitive decline, and dementia.

Older drivers can prolong their time behind the wheel by:

  • Taking refresher courses on defensive driving.
  • Annual vision checkups (more often, if necessary).
  • Annual hearing checkups.
  • Exercising to maintain physical fitness.
  • Driving the safest vehicle they can afford.

Older drivers also should create an advance driving directive that allows someone else to make the decision when they should stop driving. At the same time, make a plan for when that day comes by setting up alternative transportation for appointments, shopping, and so on.

“Older drivers are, all in all, very good drivers,” said Brenda Vrkljan, a rehabilitation specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. “But driving is not a right. It’s a privilege we have to earn; we need to be aware that things change as we get older and we don’t necessarily have the same skills. Driving involves complex maneuvers, and most people outlive their driving ability.”

Legal help is available for crash victims

If you were injured in an accident that was not your fault, you can learn your legal rights and options by contacting a personal injury lawyer in your area. At Nelson Langer Engle, PLLC, our attorneys represent crash victims in the Seattle and Tacoma regions—and we know what it takes to win. Don't let an insurance company try to minimize the severity of your injuries or pressure you into accepting a lowball settlement offer that won't cover your losses.

Contact our law firm instead, and let our Seattle car accident lawyers fight for the compensation you need and deserve. Our law offices are located in Seattle and Tacoma, and we offer legal representation on contingency. That means you pay nothing unless we win your case. Schedule a free consultation today to find out more.

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