Car Safety and Transportation Alternatives for Older Drivers

Older and senior drivers are more likely to be in a car accident, which makes finding car safety and transportation alternatives for older drivers a priority for some. Refer to our guide below for driving safety tips for older drivers, vehicle options or aftermarket equipment to assist senior drivers, and more transportation alternatives for older drivers.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 6, 2020

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With aging comes a decrease in the necessary visual sensitivities people need to drive vehicles safely.  For example, it has been found that our contrast sensitivity, the ability to tell objects and backgrounds apart from each other, lessens as we age. Thus, older drivers usually have more trouble seeing faint road markings or driving through fog or heavy rain than the average driver.

While old age may mean the end of our senior family member’s driving capabilities, some are still able to drive with assistive devices or technology. If driving is out of the question, there are still plenty of ways older adults can get around by using public transportation and other services.

If this struggle is a concern in your family, here are some useful resources you can consult to make an informed decision about an elderly family member’s driving.

Facts About Older Drivers

Statistics show that the number of older drivers, especially those over the age of 70, is steadily increasing with people now choosing to hold onto their driver’s license longer than previous generations. The number is expected to grow within the next years given the fact that the number of drivers over the age of 65 will increase from 46 million today to around 95 million by 2060 as the current population ages.

Given these statistics and the fact that older drivers are more prone to incurring fatal injuries from car accidents, there is an urgent need to make roads safer and help senior drivers improve their driving skills.

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Changes that Can Impact Driving

It is no secret that the body changes as we age, thus, limiting the type of physical activities we can do. As mentioned before, vision is one of the areas that aging compromises. Although age alone should not determine whether a person should stop driving or not, there are old age-related signs that you should watch out for:

  • Loss of mobility in the limbs
  • A noticeable decrease in reaction time and decision-making skills
  • Diagnosis of dementia
  • Hearing problems

If your loved one exhibits some of these, it may be time to consider talking to them about limiting or stopping their driving altogether.

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Driving Safety Tips

Here are some ways to remain safe while driving when older:

Stay active: Regular physical activity will help an older person maintain and even improve both their strength and flexibility. which will assist with the ability to do movements related to driving or parking.

Consider having hearing and vision tests done: Get vision and hearing problems checked and diagnosed early to treat them before getting worse, as a certain level of sight and hearing is needed for safe driving.

Know your limitations: While an older person can be still capable enough to drive on flat roads for short distances, consider whether long drives or driving through rougher terrain or minimum visibility weather situations would still be advisable.

Avoid distractions: Keep any phones or other devices on silent to avoid distractions while driving.

Take a refresher course: Some driving schools offer refresher driving courses specifically for older adults.

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Vehicle Options and Aftermarket Equipment to Assist Older Drivers

There are adaptive devices and features you can install in a vehicle to make driving more comfortable and safer for older drivers and those with disabilities.

For example, adding seat pads or cushions will not only add comfort while driving but will also improve the driver’s line of sight. Meanwhile, adding a steering wheel cover will help drivers with arthritic hands be able to grip and turn the wheel better. More advanced options, such as adaptive devices, are available for those with reduced movement or strength.

Choosing the right vehicle is also important. Picking a car with wide doors, large door handles, and adjustable pedals is recommended to ensure the comfort of a senior driver. Having the driver themselves test drive the vehicle is also necessary to assure that they can adequately park and maneuver the car.

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Transportation Alternatives

If driving is really out of the question, you can help older family members keep their mobility and social life by offering them transportation alternatives to get around.

Public transportation: This is a great alternative if you live in a city. Seniors usually enjoy fare discounts when they ride buses or trains.

Shuttles: Check if your local community or church offers shuttle services for senior citizens.

Cycling: If their strength still permits it, cycling for short distances is a safer way to get from one place to another.

Ride-sharing: Talk to other family members, friends, and even neighbors and make arrangements whenever an older family member needs to go somewhere.

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Resources for Older Drivers

For more tips and information on how older drivers can safely drive while aging, check out the resources below. There is support and information available to help you stay safe while driving.

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Resources for Families of Older Drivers

Giving up the car keys may be a difficult subject to discuss in some families. But do not let this difficulty prevent you from getting an older family member the help and guidance they need to drive safely or consider other transit options.

Talking to an elderly family member about their ability to drive may be a sensitive subject, so make sure to approach the matter carefully.

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