Should Your Older Parents Still Drive

By Simon

There’s no doubt at some point or another you’ve likely been stuck behind a, how should we say it, exceptionally experienced at life individual on the road. We can all play the scene out in our minds, a little old man, who can barely see over the steering wheel, coke bottle glasses, and his left blinker flashing relentlessly without abandon driving the wrong way down a one way street and yelling feverishly at the young whippersnappers who made the daggumroadway too narrow.

While this scenario leaves little doubt about our particular little old man’s ability to drive safely, it opens the door to a much more complicated question; “At what age is it unsafe to drive, and when is it time to turn in the driver’s license for good?”

As of today, there are more drivers over the age of 70 than ever before. The baby boomer generation continues to adapt to an ever-changing world without hesitation, and nothing seems to force them to slow down. Fortunately, they themselves do slow down. In 2016 a total of 4,792 people ages 70 and older died in crashes (we wish that number was zero), however, the remarkable part is the significant drop as compared to 1997. The 2016 numbers show an 18% decrease in comparison.

With that being said, drivers age 70 and older have higher crash rates per mile traveled than middle-aged drivers, though not as high as young drivers.

Statistically speaking, per mile traveled, fatalcrash rates do noticeably increase starting at age 70-74 and are highest amongst people over the age of 85. This is attributed to the physiological makeup of the driver, weaker bones and inability to heal quickly contribute to the elevated numbers that correspond to age.

As the risks of driving have become more self evident and have taken the center stage in media, more and more people are taking the necessary precautions and limiting their own driving. Many states have taken it a step further and require in-person license renewal for older drivers to help identify if they are still capable of passing the drivers test, as well as the vision requirements. For the children of many older drivers, this is a welcome relief.  Many children have noted that asking their parent to forfeit their driver’s license was harder than asking them to sell their family home.

It is important to note that for many older drivers, being able to drive is a last leg of freedom and independence - a feeling we can all identify with. The sensory detail and motor function of a 90 year old may be superior to that of a 17 year old (with a cell phone in their hand) - every driver is different. As technology continues to advance, more drivers are learning to take advantage of sophisticated systems like voice commands, and impact sensors. It is our sincere hope that crash statistics fall dramatically - for all drivers.

Making the decision to stop driving, either for yourself or a loved one is never easy. At Drive Rite, our commitment to safety is unwavering. If you would like to evaluate your driving skills , and get a professional opinion, please stop by and schedule a lesson. Our team of professional instructors will offer honest feedback.

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