Baby boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 individuals per day. The generation that grew up relying on cars for their freedom is also one that is causing a drastic rise in the number of senior drivers. As people reach old age, they experience a decline in many of the abilities that make them safe drivers. Many seniors, for example, do not have the same reflexes they once had, nor are their muscles capable of making quick actions.
Senior Driving-Related Injuries and Deaths on the Rise
Recently released figures from the National Highway Safety Administration show that 5,560 people age 65 and older died as the result of motor vehicle crashes in 2012, while another 214,000 were injured. That’s a significant increase in both deaths and injuries when compared to 2011. The 2012 fatality figures represent 3% increase, while the number of injured seniors represents a 16% increase.
States Getting Involved
Many states have recognized the growing presence of senior citizens on the road, and have taken steps to ensure that these drivers maintain their ability to operate a vehicle safely. In the District of Columbia, for example, drivers age 70 and older must receive a medical certification from a doctor, take a vision test, and show up to the Department of Motor Vehicles in person when renewing their driver’s licenses. Other states have also either passed, or are considering, similar requirements.
Boomers and Other Seniors Can Act Now
When the senior is involved in an automobile accident, that senior is more likely to suffer an injury and have those injuries result in serious medical complications when compared to younger people. As baby boomers age, there are steps they can take to protect themselves and others when they get behind the wheel.
All boomers should ensure that their cars are operating properly. When driving, make sure that the seat belt is fastened, that there is at least 10 inches between the driver and the steering wheel airbag housing. Adjusting mirrors so they minimize blind spots is also essential, as is making sure there are no vision obstructions or other distractions in the car while under operation. Driving only during daylight hours and keeping to familiar roads can also help as you get older, as can not driving during inclement weather.
Yet these steps are sometimes not enough. Boomer drivers should get a physical exam every year to look for any changes in abilities that could affect their behavior on the road. If an examination reveals that your abilities have declined, you may need to look for alternative modes transportation, or at least limiting how much you drive.