While research shows that age is not the sole predictor of driving ability and safety, plenty of evidence suggests most of us experience age-related declines in our physical and mental abilities—declines that can signal a greater crash risk.
In 2016, the number of people 65 and older killed in traffic crashes (6,764) made up 18 percent of all traffic fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And with the number of seniors in this country growing—there are 49.2 million people age 65 and older in 2016, up 30 percent from 2007—more folks have to consider road safety as it relates to their place behind the wheel.
So how old is too old to drive?
“That’s a tough one because everybody is different,” says Great Falls State Farm agent Pam Hansen Alfred. “It’s a big deal because older drivers feel like they lose their independence when that happens.”
Some state departments of motor vehicles place restrictions on drivers once they reach a certain age. But some drivers can be slower than others to realize the toll their advanced age might take on reflexes and driving ability.
Know Your Risks
A motorist might want to consider putting a halt to driving if any of the following applies:
- Getting lost on routes that should be familiar
- Noticing new dents or scratches to your vehicle
- Receiving a ticket for a driving violation
- Having experienced a near-miss or crash recently
- Having been advised to limit/stop driving due to a health reason
- Being overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving
- Taking any medication that might affect driving safely
- Speeding or driving too slowly for no reason
- Suffering from any illnesses that may affect driving skills
Drivers should also consider the condition of their eyesight, how well they can control the vehicle and whether driving creates a feeling of nervousness, fear or anxiety. People who track changes in their eyesight, physical fitness and reflexes can adjust their driving habits to stay safe on the road.
Have the Talk
Often, it falls to the loved ones of seniors to address the safety risks of them continuing to drive. In those cases, the sooner you have the conversation, the better. Too often the talk is delayed until the person’s driving has become dangerous making it more tense and awkward.
Have a Doctor Weigh In
“It’s good to have a physician in your corner if you need to convince a senior to stick to riding shotgun,” Hansen Alfred says. That worked for her family when they couldn’t convince her mother-in-law to give up driving.
“The doctors are concerned about their safety and they seem to take it better,” she says. “For that generation, doctors are God.”
Pam Hansen Alfred’s office at 2817 10th Avenue South in Great Falls provides auto, home, business, property, life and health insurance. The Great Falls native has been a State Farm agent since 1986 and has a team ready discuss your coverage needs at 406-453-6010 or 800-823-3620.
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