Americans: Driving Longer and Staying Safe

Did you realize that 40 million Americans aged 65 and older have a driver's license, and more than 3.5 million of those 85 and older do?

Decades of statistics show that crash rates per mile driven are highest for the youngest drivers (ages 16 to 19) and then accident rates steadily drop from age 19. Crash rates begin to rise again though, once drivers pass age 70. But even with the increase, senior drivers at 85 still crash less often, per mile, than teenage drivers do.

Dr. Emmy Betz, an emergency room physician and associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who researches senior-driving safety, says that older adults don't get enough credit for their safe driving habits.

"Older drivers are more likely to use seat belts and follow speed limits," Betz says. "They are less likely to drive at night or while intoxicated, or to text while they drive."

There are steps that older drivers can take to remain safe drivers. Here are seven things you can do to help keep your driving skills sharp:

1) Take a refresher course

One option: AARP offers continuing driver-education courses regularly in our area. You can find available, nearby classes here. Many car insurance companies will even give you a rate discount when you complete this course!

2) Stay physically active

Studies show that cardiovascular exercise can slow cognitive decline. They also show that strength and flexibility programs can improve driving tasks like neck rotation and response speed. Walking, stretching, and strength training are great exercises for older drivers.

3) Have regular vision and hearing tests

Even if you think your hearing and vision are fine, stick with a regular examination schedule. Some problems can be easier to correct if caught early, and specialists can recommend adjustments to reduce your risk of a driving accident.

4) Manage any health issues

Work with your doctor to manage any chronic conditions that may affect your driving safety. Also discuss how any medications you are taking may affect your ability to drive.

5) Know and respect your limitations

Older drivers are usually willing to avoid situations that put their driving safety at risk. Seniors drive less in rush hour, after dark, or in bad weather. Many decide to avoid difficult roads or busy highways.

6) Drive only during good conditions

Be rested when you drive. Don't drive while angry or after you've had alcohol. You can improve driver safety by driving during daylight hours, in good weather, on quiet roads, and in areas you're familiar with.

7) Don't use your cell phone while driving

It's a constant reminder to teenage drivers, but older drivers need to be reminded as well. It is unsafe to use (or even look at) your cell phone while driving. Remember the advertising slogan designed a few years ago to try to get teens to stop using their cell phones while driving: It Can Wait!

Please follow the above guidelines to maintain good driving skills. To our active Tapestry residents...if you're driving, we want you to stay safe! For residents who prefer to have someone else drive, let our concierge arrange an on-demand driver just for you.