Many senior drivers are reluctant to give up their keys, and for good reason. Being able to drive provides a certain amount of freedom that no one wants to surrender. Besides, while seniors may suffer from medical issues that affect their driving ability, they also have valuable experience that can make them safer drivers. In many cases, they don’t need to give up their license, but they may benefit from a few safety pointers and reminders.
California’s Senior Drivers
According to California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), more than 5.5 million drivers are over the age of 55 in California, and more than 2.5 million are 70 or older. By 2030, it’s estimated that one out of five drivers in the U.S. will be 65 or older.
These older drivers do not necessarily need to undergo a reexamination to keep their license. The California DMV states that a person in never reexamined based solely on their age, and the DMV does not have different criteria for senior drivers. Instead, the DMV reexamines drivers due to a poor driving record or certain physical or mental conditions. Additionally, when drivers renew their license, they may need to take a vision test.
Problems for Senior Drivers
Certain medical conditions associated with old age can interfere with a person’s driving ability.
Seniors may experience a decline in reaction time, which can make it harder for them to respond to road conditions. Mobility issues, including stiffness in the joints and muscles, can also be a problem for senior drivers.
Many seniors experience a decline in vision, which can interfere with their driving ability. Glaucoma and other eye diseases can be a serious problem for senior drivers. Hearing loss may also pose a challenge, making it harder for seniors to notice emergency vehicles and other dangers on the road.
Mental and neurodegenerative conditions can also impact a senior driver’s ability. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, for example, can lead to confusion on the road.
As seniors age, they may be prescribed more medications. Some of these prescriptions may interfere with their ability to drive safely.
While these medical issues are common, not all senior drivers suffer from them, and the degree can also vary. Some seniors may be able to compensate for certain issues, for example, by using hearing aids or glasses.
Resources for Senior Drivers
The DMV Senior Guide for Safe Driving provides health and driving tips for senior drivers.
For those who prefer something a little more interactive and personal, the California Highway Patrol(CHP) has created the Age Well, Drive Smart program. Through this program, senior drivers are invited to participate in a free, two-hour class that will help them evaluate and improve their driving skills. Classes are held at CHP offices and senior centers. For more information, contact the CHP.
What You Can Do
If you are a senior driver and want to sharpen your skills, use the DMV and CHP resources above. Likewise, if you know a senior driver who could benefit from a few pointers, suggest the free resources.
When a senior driver’s safety is in doubt, a doctor, police officer or family member can recommend a reexamination. If you are worried about a senior relative’s driving ability, you can contact the DMV with your concerns. The DMV’s Senior Ombudsman Program is dedicated to helping California’s senior drivers.
Know a senior driver who needs auto insurance? Dashers can help. Request a quote here.