Safe Driving for Seniors

For most Americans, driving is a passion and comes easily. No matter how long we've driven, it isn't too hard for us to remember the first time we sat behind the wheel or owned our first car!

 Driving may be a necessity for some of us, but to most of us it still remains a choice. Today, healthier lifestyles combined with regular exercise, improved nutrition and medications have delayed the onset of old age making driving and the decision of when one needs to, for example, attend a driving school or forego driving an important decision.


How age affects our driving ability

For many senior drivers impairments in vision, hearing and reflexes can affect their driving ability. Elder drivers run a higher risk of getting involved in multiple-vehicle accidents that may prove more serious for them than for younger people. Hence, it is important to know how age affects our driving ability and what can be done to overcome any adverse age-related challenges.

Common ailments that can affect safe driving for seniors


As you age, some of the most common health conditions that are likely to have an adverse affect on your ability to drive safely are:

  • Psychiatric disorders.
  • Heart disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Vision problems
  • Epilepsy.
  • Blackouts or fainting.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Other Age-related disorders


Age Hearing Vision Manual Dexterity
25-34 0.3% 0.4% 0.4%
35-44 0.5% 0.5% 0.6%
45-54 0.6% 0.6% 0.6%
55-64 0.9% 0.7% 0.8%
65+ 2.4% 1.4% 0.9%
Chart is based on data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, February 2002, based on CPS of September 2001.

Apart from the above-mentioned ailments, some of the major risk factors that can have adverse effects on the driving ability of seniors are:


Visual impairment

-Difficulty in focusing on moving objects
- Difficulty in seeing in the dark or in low light
- Difficulty in adjusting to glare
- Reduced peripheral visionpossible.


Limited mobility and increased reaction time

-Stiffness and pain in joints
- Weakness
- Loss of flexibility


Other physiological changes

-Slower reflexes
-Delayed reaction time/More difficult time judging distance or speed
-Drowsiness or other side effects of medication
-Hearing loss
-Effects of Medications and/or alcohol
-Dementia or brain impairment

Does that mean you must stop driving because of these impairments in your abilities? In all probability not! All we are saying is, it is important that you are aware of such problems and take measures to remain qualified to drive safely. Also, you may want to consult your doctor more often and depending on what your doctor says about your current physical and psychological health, you may decide to continue or restrict your driving.