The Truth About Older Drivers

I spent 20 years at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studying older driver safety. Here is what we learned:

There is no single age beyond which older drivers become unsafe, so pulling a license after a specific birthday may be too late for some and too soon for others.

Routine driver license testing does not and can not detect problem older drivers — it takes detailed (and expensive) individualized assessment by a trained specialist to do that.

Most older drivers are safer than most younger drivers: it is the things older drivers do to be safe that drive the rest of us crazy — they drive too slow, they take forever to make decisions, they never change lanes…you know the pattern.

Older drivers are safe as long as they retain sufficient cognitive ability to be aware of their sensory and motor limitations. Loss of cognitive ability poses safety problems, but early diagnosis of these conditions is difficult and expensive.

There are a couple of reasons why older drivers are over-represented in fatalities per mile driven: (1) Older drivers typically restrict their driving to roads close to home and avoid driving on interstate highways, so almost all of their miles on more dangerous roads; and (2) older people are much more fragile than younger folks, and tend to sustain more serious injuries than younger drivers in similar crashes.

Intersections are a major problem for older drivers. Intersections are a major problem for drivers of ALL ages!

Any infrastructure improvements that aid older drivers will also make roadways safer for all drivers.

Finally, taking the car keys prematurely will increase societal costs dramatically, pushing former drivers into less independent living situations that may reduce transportation needs but require more care from others. And, ironically, this forces them to rely on transport provided by younger drivers, who are intrinsically less safe than most older drivers!

What to do about all the boomers driving into their old age? Slow down. Consider your situation carefully before entering or turning across traffic. And don’t change lanes unless absolutely necessary.


About Jesse

My name is Jesse Blatt. My first name is actually “Ramon,” but I haven’t used that name, except for official purposes, since 1970. I have a high school diploma and a PhD…nothing in between. I’ll get around to explaining that in a post sometime. From time to time I will be posting true stories from my past, though not in any special order. I’ve been fortunate to have had a dozen or so different careers, most of them very satisfying, some fairly frustrating, and none that I wish had never happened. In my many former lives, I have been a mail clerk, radio and TV engineer, radio announcer, electronics engineer, college instructor, psychologist, research consultant, Federal employee, supervisor of research professionals, computer programmer, web designer, instructional designer, construction site handyman, and carpenter, not necessarily in that order.
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