For millions of individuals around the world, a driver’s license represent independence, freedom, and is a necessary part of their daily life. For many, a license is a rite of passage, a symbol of freedom and independence. Not driving, whether by choice or necessity, presents challenges for the individual for a number of reasons. Transportation and mobility play a central role in the quality of life for older adults like all adults.
“As people age into older adulthood, many begin to experience gradual changes in their abilities including vision, thinking and movement. These changes can impact the ability of older adults to drive safely,” said David W. Eby, research professor, UMTRI; Behavioral Sciences Group.
“After about age 70, the crash fatality rates begin to increase and in the oldest age groups, these rates are higher than any other age group including teens,” said Eby.
The importance of keeping an aging family member safe without compromising their independence and mobility is essential to maintaining a thriving, and engaging life.
In Michigan, 17-percent of residents are aged 65 or older, and make up the fastest growing age group in the state. In 2019 there were 1.5 million licensed drivers over the age of 65, which is nearly 30-percent of all licensed drivers in the state.
Researchers at UMTRI are committed to ensuring the safe, equitable and efficient transportation for all drivers, including older individuals.
When is it time to retire from driving?
It’s important to have conversations about “driving retirement” long-before there is a problem. Begin first by asking about their concerns – are they still driving at night? If so – do you have any concerns – how is your vision? Or maybe ask about the medication they are on – and whether they believe they might be impacting their driving. Encourage them to discuss these issues with their doctors, their friends, their church groups.
It’s important to know what their life is like – how they are engaged in community, maybe they even work – and how does transportation and mobility impact their ability to live their best life.
The goal is to keep them driving as long as its safe for everyone.
What can we do to prolong our ability to drive?
Stay healthy and active! But recognize and plan ahead for changes in your health. Physical, cognitive even sensory changes are simply part of the aging process – but they can have a profound impact on our driving.
Have honest conversations with family members and medical providers about your concerns — BEFORE it’s too late.
Be willing to make adjustments – avoid peak driving times, nighttime driving, and long trips, anything that increases your risk.
Researchers from the Behavioral Sciences Group and their partners have undertaken a multisite prospective cohort study designed to generate empirical data for understanding the role of medical, behavioral, environmental and technological factors in driving safety during the process of aging
Safe Drivers Smart Options provides resources for active older drivers, and for drivers who may be considering limiting their driving and finding other transportation choices.