Driver Safety: Vermont’s Older Drivers are Having a Tough Year and it may be Getting Worse
Join Garry Scott for the free class “Driving As You Age: What You Need To Know.” It takes place on Thursday, October 17, 2013, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Davis Auditorium at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington, Vermont. It is free and open to the public. Register here.
2013 has been a particularly tough year for drivers over the age of 65. In fact:
- 15 of 43 fatal crashes in Vermont this year have involved drivers 65 or older.
- 17 of the 47 motor vehicle related fatalities have been people over the age of 65.
- In 2012, the total number of motor vehicle related fatalities in people over the age of 65 was 14. Things are getting worse.
Vermont is not alone in this trend: Nationwide, the highest crash rates per miles driven occur in drivers over the age of 65 and new teenage drivers. In 2006, 14 percent of all persons killed in automobile crashes were over the age of 65.
Many older drivers take great pride in their safety records over the course of their lives. However, even though older drivers have plenty of experience on the road and tend to drive less frequently than their younger counterparts, age-related conditions can impede their driving abilities. It is important to recognize that our ability to drive changes as we age due to the physical and cognitive changes that accompany aging. These changes can directly affect one’s ability to drive safely.
As we age, we begin to have diminished arm strength, which makes it harder to turn the steering wheel. Pain or stiffness in the neck can make it more difficult to look around and see possible hazards. Normal cognitive changes associated with aging can make the divided attention required for safe driving more difficult. Many older drivers begin to take more prescription medications. The mixture of these medications may cause impairment, which may sometimes mimic driving while under the influence of alcohol.
But getting older does not necessarily mean that it is time to give up driving – it simply means that we need to pay more attention to safety. It is important that family members monitor each other’s driving, since it is sometimes difficult to recognize one’s own limitations. It is also a good idea to have honest conversations with your healthcare provider about your driving, and to always ask about how new medications might affect your ability to be safe on the road.
There are a number of resources available for older drivers to address their concerns about their ability to drive safely. AARP offers a 2-day driving class and offers some great information about safe driving in older adults. They can also provide more information about what alternatives are available.
The population in Vermont (and around the country) is aging, and this problem has the potential to get worse. We all want our roads to be as safe as possible for drivers of all ages. If you have concerns about your own driving or the driving of someone you know, talk about it.
Sgt. Garry Scott is has worked for the Vermont State Police for thirteen years. Currently, he oversees the Traffic Operations Unit and the Crash Reconstruction team for the Vermont State Police.