Research shows that older motorists are at more risk of death or impairment as a result of an auto accident than middle-aged drivers. For example, if you’re over 70, your risk of a fatal accident per mile driven is higher than for a younger driver. Your chance of injury or death in a road traffic accident increases as you age. In 2018, figures show that more than 7,500 people aged 65 or older were sadly killed in traffic crashes.
These statistics reinforce how important it is that older drivers use all the tools available to them to stay safe on the road.
Driving is often an important way of maintaining social ties and independence. For these reasons, many mature drivers are keen to keep their licenses for as long as possible. Luckily, there are a number of things drivers 55 and older can do to optimize driving performance and stay safe on the road.
Here we take a look at how aging affects driving ability, as well as consider the type of license renewal provisions states impose on older drivers. Finally, we detail some ways to optimize your driving performance, including the benefits that a defensive driving course can bring.
How Does Aging Affect Driving Ability?
- Cognitive decline. As people get older, their ability to react quickly and make decisions decreases.
- Eyesight problems. Failing eyesight is a natural part of the aging process, due to the weakening of the ocular muscles. Older drivers may also find it takes longer for their eyes to focus or suffer from reduced peripheral vision.
- Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis can reduce reaction time, make it physically more difficult to drive, and also potentially result in a decreasing tolerance of distractions.
- Medications. Prescribed medications can impact functionality and senses in different ways. Understanding how those changes can affect performance behind the wheel is crucial for staying safe on the road.
Research shows that driver errors increase noticeably with age. Although some older people are more badly affected than others, a degree of decline with age is, unfortunately, inevitable, as it’s a natural part of the aging process.
What Type of License Renewal Provisions do States Require?
Florida requires that senior drivers up to age 79 renew their driver’s license every eight years. Drivers who are 80 or older are assessed every six years to determine their fitness to drive. The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (FHSMV) can perform the vision test (at no cost) or drivers can arrange for it to be done by a qualified medical professional. Any issues flagged up by the test will need to be addressed before the driver can get back behind the wheel.
Connecticut doesn’t have any specific regulations relating to older drivers but does allow drivers aged 65 or older to renew every two years rather than every six years. In the same way as for younger drivers, if you are diagnosed with a condition that may affect your ability to drive, the medical professional making the diagnosis will usually pass this information on to the DMV.
Once a driver reaches the age of 65, they must renew their driving license in person and must also take an eye test. All drivers, including older ones, need to renew their license every five years in Washington state. If a medical or ophthalmic screening reveals a medical issue, the driver may have to take a test to prove they still have sufficient capacity to drive safely.
Once a driver reaches 65, they need to renew their license every five years. After the age of 70, they can no longer do so by post – they need to renew in person. After the age of 65, passing a vision test is a requirement for a license to be reissued.
How to Optimize Your Driving Performance
- Looking after your health and living a healthy lifestyle are probably the most important ways to keep decline due to aging at bay. In addition, regular check-ups ensure that any problems are picked up early, allowing appropriate treatment to be accessed before the issues become more severe.
- Driving regularly is also important – it’s all too easy to become rusty if you start to drive less frequently.
- If you have been prescribed corrective glasses or a hearing aid, it’s important to use them correctly when driving. An adequate standard of vision, in particular, is vital for safe driving.
- Ensure that you are fit and well before driving – fatigue, pain, or illness can all slow reaction times and make driving more dangerous. If you’re feeling unwell, it’s unwise to drive.
- Maintaining social links, hobbies, and interests have all been shown to reduce cognitive decline.
- For many older drivers, a defensive driving course can give them the additional skills needed to help keep them safe on the roads.
The Benefits of a Defensive Driving Course
A defensive driving course can be completed online in the comfort of your own home. Courses are intended to empower mature drivers to prevent accidents by training defensive driving techniques and strategies needed to stay out of harm’s way.
Defensive driving courses also provide valuable information on the latest driving procedures, road regulations and laws, and other relevant intelligence that equips drivers with up-to-the-minute knowledge.
Many insurers offer a defensive driving discount to drivers who complete an online course, regardless of age. Some states even require insurance companies to provide mature drivers with a discount once they take an accident prevention course.
Many senior drivers discover that a defensive driving course makes them feel more confident on the road, enabling them to continue to enjoy road trips.
To find out more about the advantages of a defensive driving course, or to register for your online course, visit the DriveSafe Online select your state page.