Safe Senior Driving: A Complete Guide For Older Drivers Based On NHTSA Guidelines

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    Experience comes with age – this famous adage is especially true when it comes to driving. Drivers over the age of 65 are among the safest on the road. Most seniors wear safety belts, avoid drinking and driving, and obey speed limits. However, a disadvantage is that they are more likely to suffer injuries or fatalities in a traffic accident because of their age. The highest number of crash deaths per mile driven is among seniors, with teenagers being the exception.

    With longer life expectancies and a desire for independence, more seniors stay behind the wheel well into their golden years. Nonetheless, natural body changes over time influence our ability to drive safely. Arash Law, founded by Arash Khorsandi, Esq., is dedicated to supporting seniors who drive for as long as possible.

    While many older adults continue to drive safely, some unique challenges and considerations that can impact driving abilities come with aging. Senior drivers have genuine concerns they have to face, including the normal transitions associated with aging—both in body and mind—that can affect their driving abilities.

    Alongside discussing these challenges, we’ll provide hands-on advice, practical tips, and resources aimed at helping seniors maintain their independence while ensuring their safety. Whether you’re a senior driver yourself, a caring family member, or just curious about the subject, you’ll get valuable insights to promote safe and confident senior driving.

    Elderly Drivers Statistics

    Among the United States’ fastest-growing demographics is the aging baby boomer generation. Over 70 million people will be 65 and older by 2030, and at least 85% can still drive.

    The National Highway Safety Transportation Association (NHTSA) recommends everyone to talk about driving safety, regardless of age. While aging can affect driving, there are things you can do to keep you and other road users safe. But before discussing these much-needed safety tips, it’s essential to look at the numbers surrounding older drivers.

    Elderly Driving – Important Facts and Figures
    • In the United States alone, there are 55.8 million individuals who are 65 and older.
    • In 2020, traffic accidents led to the unfortunate deaths of about 7,500 elderly individuals, making up 17% of all traffic fatalities in the same year.
    • Traffic accidents kill approximately 20 elderly individuals each day and injure approximately 540 more. This sums up to about 200,000 seniors who need emergency medical care due to car accidents yearly.
    • Death rates for drivers above 70 are higher than those between 35 and 54.
    • Older individuals behind the wheel are likelier to be involved in accidents at intersections, especially those lacking stoplights.

    Given these statistics, senior drivers must be physically and mentally fit and aware of the latest driving laws and practices.

    How Does Age Affect Driving Ability?

    How Does Age Affect Driving AbilityThere are certain points in everyone’s lives when their senses don’t seem as sharp as they once were. With age, people will also start experiencing natural symptoms that have developed over time due to their lifestyle. So, it’s crucial to address the concerns surrounding the challenges and dangers of elderly drivers.

    Some factors may affect your driving ability as you age, including:

    • Slower reaction time and reflexes. The reflexes in our bodies slow down as we age, resulting in a slower reaction time than when we were younger. In addition, tingling or numbness in your fingers and feet can cause difficulties with steering and using the brake and gas pedals.
    • Several medical conditions. Driving can be dangerous for people with illnesses like Parkinson’s disease, which causes uncontrollable movements and impairs coordination. Strokes, on the other hand, can impact limb control. Additionally, some cognitive issues that develop over time raise serious safety issues for elderly drivers. Alzheimer’s disease and progressive dementia cause a loss of safe driving skills, making alternative transportation a necessity that caregivers, medical professionals, and law enforcement must assist with.
    • Arthritis and other joint and muscle issues. Age-related conditions like arthritis make it challenging to move your head, maneuver quickly, or brake properly when driving. Consult your doctor if you notice that pain or stiffness or when arthritis impairs your driving ability.
    • Poor eyesight. As you age, your eyesight worsens. Different eye conditions, like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, can make it difficult to see things or movements that aren’t directly in front of you. Reading street or traffic signs and locating familiar locations could take longer. Additionally, glare from headlights or streetlights can make it difficult to see at night, and the sun’s brightness can be blinding during certain times of the day. Ensure your prescription is precise and updated if you wear contacts or glasses for distant vision while driving.
    • Conditions that affect hearing. You may develop hearing problems as you age, making it challenging to notice critical sounds like horns, sirens, and even noises from your vehicle. These audible cues act as alerts for situations like the need to stop, the presence of emergency vehicles, or the possibility of automotive trouble. More frequent examinations could be required if you have a history of long-term exposure to loud noises or other risk factors for hearing loss.
    • Prescription medications. Some medications may cause dizziness, sleepiness, or decreased alertness, which could jeopardize your safety while operating a vehicle. While some drugs come with specific warnings regarding driving, even medications without such caution can adversely affect your ability to drive. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions or prescription medications that may risk your safety when driving.

    What You Can Do At Home To Test Your Ability To Drive Safely

    No matter your age, you must assess your capacity to drive safely. Below are six easy tests from the United States Department of Transportation to help you identify changes in your physical or mental abilities that may increase your driving risks. The best thing about these tests is that you can do all of them in the comfort of your home. Depending on the test, you can do it independently or with the help of another person.

    Your test results will indicate if you have matters that might impact your driving. If so, you’ll find advice on how to adjust and whether to contact a professional for further examination or treatment. Your doctor should address additional issues, such as medication side effects and hearing horns, sirens, and train whistles.

    Basic Vision Test

    Almost all the information we require to operate a vehicle is taken in through our eyes. If we can’t see well, we might not be able to react to signals, signs, vehicles, and other road characteristics safely. Our eyesight changes as we age, making it more difficult to see well at night and in low-light situations, such as a sunset or cloudy weather. That is because there is less contrast between the background and the object.

    How to Take the Test at Home

    Important note: To prepare for the test, wear your eyeglasses or contact lenses if you use them while driving. Grab a pencil and another sheet of paper, and read through all the steps beforehand.

    Basic-Vision-Test

    1. Use any regular bond paper to print the chart, but don’t look at it too closely so you don’t memorize the letters.
    2. Go to a bright location in your home. You can either fold the paper in half so it can stand alone or paste it on a wall. Orient the paper with Chart 1 at the bottom, ensuring no shadows on the chart.
    3. Move about 10 feet away from the paper. You can stand or sit during the test.
    4. Starting with the largest letter on Chart 1, write down all the letters you can see line-by-line. Put your best guess down if you’re unsure about the letter.
    5. Turn the page so that Chart 2 is right side up. Follow step 3 again.
    6. Then, compare your notes with the charts. You score each chart by getting the lowest line without making any mistakes. Let’s say you saw all the letters through the fourth line. Therefore, you get a 4 for that chart.

    Interpreting the Results

    Your vision is normal if you scored 5 or 6 on Chart 1. Of course, your glasses or contacts are helping you achieve normal vision. Since Chart 2 has less contrast, expect your score to be lower. Subtract the scores from each other. The greater the difference, the harder it is for you to see in low light.

    Your vision might limit your ability to drive if you can only see the largest line on Chart 1. An eye test measures your ability to see under normal and low-light conditions. Schedule a complete eye examination with your ophthalmologist to determine whether the problem can be corrected.

    Response Time Assessment

    When driving, we must pay attention to traffic signs, signals, pavement markings, the road ahead, vehicles, motorcycles, cyclists, and pedestrians to the sides and rear. What we see may force us to brake, accelerate, steer left or right, or do both. As we age, it gets harder to balance all these sources of information and respond quickly. This brief test will assess your reaction time.

    How to Take the Test at Home

    Important note: Prepare a timer and set it for 10 seconds. Any timer would do, including the one on your phone, computer, iPad, stopwatch, or stove. To pass this test, identify as many numbers as possible in order within 10 seconds. Make sure to read all the steps before getting started.

    1. First, do a practice run. The photo below shows typical driving conditions where pedestrians, traffic lights, and other vehicles are to be observed by the average driver.

    Basic-Vision-Test-2

    1. Locate the starting point in the upper left corner of the picture and start your timer.
    2. Touch the other numbers (2, 3, 4, and so on) in order with your finger as quickly as possible. When the timer goes off, stop.
    3. Next, do the actual test. Reset your timer and look away from the image for a few seconds.
    4. When you’re ready, do step 2 again. The last number you touch will be your score.

    Interpreting the Results

    Using the chart below, find your age range and your score.

    Age >17 18 to 29 30 to 39 40 to 49 50 to 59 60 to 69 70<
    Above Average 14 14 14 13 – 14 13 – 14 12 – 14 10 – 14
    Average 12 – 13 11 – 13 11 – 13 10 – 12 9 – 12 8 – 11 6 – 9
    Below Average 1 – 11 1 – 10 1 – 10 1 – 9 1 – 8 1 – 7 1 – 5

    We tend to react more slowly as we grow older, so it’s normal to see scores decrease with age. When you score “below average,” you’ll need to take special care in where, when, and how you drive.

    General Fitness Test

    Important note: Slow walkers are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents, regardless of whether they are behind the wheel or pedestrians. This test will let you assess how fast you can walk a short distance. With this test, you can quickly check the overall health of your leg muscles and joints. Prepare a stopwatch to tell time in seconds, or ask someone to record your time. Be sure to read all the steps before you begin.

    How to Take the Test

    1. Choose a location with a clear floor area over 10 feet long. Mark both ends of a straight path of 10 feet.
    2. Practice walking to the 10-foot mark and then back again without recording your time.
    3. You’re now ready to retake the walk. Count the number of seconds it takes this time. Repeat the exercise – this time, move as quickly as you feel comfortable and safe.
    4. When you pick up your foot to take your first step, begin timing. Once you’ve crossed the starting line again with both feet, stop timing. The score you receive is determined by the total number of seconds it took you to walk the distance.

    Interpreting the Results

    Taking more than seven seconds to complete this walk may indicate that your fitness level has declined to the point that it may affect your driving.

    Foot Mobility Test

    Using only your right foot to operate the foot controls in a car is a safe practice. When driving, we constantly move our foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal and back again. This test shows how well you can do this.

    Before starting, get a timer or clock that tells the time in seconds. It would help if you also had a brick or a similar-sized object for the test. Read all the steps before you start.

    How to Take the Test

    1. Sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet about 12 inches apart on the floor.
    2. Mark the floor where your feet were and place a brick or similar-sized object midway between them.
    3. Try lifting your right foot over the object to touch the left spot on the floor. Then, return it to the right mark without hitting the object. Repeat this step a few times and begin the real test when ready.
    4. Start by placing your right foot on the right mark. The timer begins when your right foot is lifted over the object to tap the left spot. Without hitting the object in between, immediately move it back to tap the right mark.
    5. Touch each mark five times, alternating between them, for 10 taps. Your score is the number of seconds it took to complete these actions.

    Interpreting the Results

    If the test took more than eight seconds, your ability to move from the gas pedal to the brake pedal is not fast enough to react to an emergency.

    Arm Mobility Test

    The movement of your arm affects how well you steer the car, even if you have power steering. By taking this test, you can determine whether you need to improve your arm strength and mobility to steer a car better and react to unexpected situations.

    How to Take the Test

    1. Find a straight-backed chair. Sit with your back straight against the back.
    2. Keep your elbow straight as you extend your right arm to your side.
    3. Try to raise your right arm as high as you can.
    4. Do the same with your left arm. Check your shoulder strength and range of motion to determine whether you can perform these movements and how far you can reach them.

    Interpreting the Results

    You will have difficulty operating your car safely if you cannot reach over shoulder height with either arm.

    Neck And Head Flexibility Test

    This test evaluates your ability to perceive and interact with other vehicles when making lane changes, merging into traffic, or navigating through sharp-angled intersections.

    How to Take the Test

    1. Place an easy-to-read clock about 10 feet away from a straight-backed chair.
    2. Take a seat in the chair and face away from the clock.
    3. Keeping your lower back against the chair, try to turn around and look at the clock behind you. If you need to move your upper back, that’s okay.
    4. Observe whether you can read the clock without moving your lower back from the chair.

    Interpreting the Results

    If reading the clock requires you to move your lower back from the chair, you may not be able to see other cars to the side or rear enough to avoid collisions.

    Arash Law’s Best Safe Driving Tips For Seniors

    Some seniors may have problems driving at night or in rainy weather. Others may face challenges with certain routes or busy highways because of certain conditions. Consider these handy tips to help you make safe choices about driving:

      • Keep your doctor in the loop.

        If you want to prioritize safety and avoid putting yourself or others in harm’s way while driving, you must keep your health in check. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you are concerned about your well-being and its impact on your driving abilities.

      • Review your prescriptions.

        Medication can make you sleepy and less alert than usual, affecting your reaction time and attention. These prescriptions may have a warning on their labels, so check your medications for any warnings. Talk to your primary healthcare provider or pharmacist if you’re worried that your medications might affect your driving skills.

    check your vision

      • Check your vision.

        Set an appointment with an eye care specialist to see if the problem can be corrected. Always wear a current prescription if you need corrective lenses. If you lose or break them, rely on something other than an old pair of eyeglasses. Better yet, replace them immediately.

        Don’t wear sunglasses or tinted lenses in low-light situations such as fog, rain, dusk, dawn, or at night. You can’t see as well because less light reaches your eyes. Ensure your seat is high enough to see some of the street within 10 feet of your car. By doing so, the nighttime glare from oncoming headlights will be reduced.

      • Assess your ability to drive.

        Driving involves multi-tasking. If you want to know if your driving capacity is intact, let driving rehabilitation specialists, occupational therapists, or other trained professionals assess your driving skills. Among the issues that these professionals can evaluate for older drivers are:

        • Strength, flexibility, and mobility
        • Reaction time and coordination
        • Ability to make quick judgments and decisions
        • Use of specialized, adaptive devices required to drive
      • Make sure you can hear clearly.

        Hearing plays an important role in overall road safety and the ability to respond to unexpected situations. Older people also need good ear health to hear blowing horns, emergency vehicle sirens, and other traffic sounds while driving. For this reason, older drivers should undergo a regular hearing test to ensure their safety on the road. Ask your doctor how often you should schedule hearing tests, and follow up on those appointments promptly.

      • Stay active.

        Older adults should incorporate exercise into their daily routine. If your doctor recommends an exercise program, discuss it with them. You can enhance your driving safety by maintaining your strength and flexibility. Keeping your muscles and joints active is critical to staying physically fit.

        One way to do this is by regularly performing stretching exercises and two and a half hours of aerobic exercise. Alternatively, consider walking in an indoor mall or around your neighborhood if there are sidewalks for all-weather convenience and safety. Check with nearby health clubs about fitness programs tailored to older individuals.

      • Drive defensively.

        Nowadays, drivers are even more distracted than they used to be, thanks to smartphones, GPS devices, audiobooks, and digital music players. Therefore, you should take extra precautions while driving. Make sure to:

        • Leave enough room for the car in front of you.
        • Cross at intersections with extra caution.
        • Keep an eye out for cars and pedestrians coming from the sides.
        • Maintain a constant and safe traffic speed while driving.
        • Avoid distractions while driving.
        • Ensure that you have enough distance to brake.
      • Avoid driving at certain times of the day.

        Drivers of all ages can experience stress during rush hour traffic, but older drivers are especially susceptible to it. Whenever possible, drive at times when traffic is lighter. Avoid driving in areas with heavy traffic or during rush hours whenever possible.

        Additionally, driving at night is not recommended if you have trouble seeing in the dark. Driving during sunrise and sunset is dangerous when the sun is directly in your line of vision.

      • Don’t tailgate.

        Adapt to the speed and gaps of other traffic. When a driver brakes suddenly, you won’t be able to stop in time if you’re too close to the car ahead. Others may suddenly cut in front of you when you’re too far away. Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front, and brake early when necessary.

        It’s safest to follow the four-second rule if conditions allow. You can measure this distance by choosing a landmark along the road, such as a tree or pole. Once the car in front has passed this point, count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand,” and so on. Counting to “four thousand” or higher before you pass a particular point indicates you are at the desired following distance.

      • Plan your route.

        Drive on familiar streets and avoid turning left. Whenever possible, avoid highways and high-speed roads. If you must drive on a fast highway, stay in the right lane.

    senior man wearing seatbelt

    • Wear seat belts.

      Ensure that you and your passengers always put on seat belts. Restrain everyone in the car, including infants and children, with a safety belt and occupant protection device. Your front seat can be raised to sit higher, preventing glare from oncoming headlights. Additionally, you’ll get a better fit for your shoulder belt, so it’s more comfortable and better able to restrain you in case of an accident. For those who are concerned about rubbing from the shoulder harness, special “sleeves” are available.

    • Keep distractions to a minimum.

      Distracting activities such as eating, adjusting the radio, or chatting can all be reasons for a car accident. Driving while using a phone is never a good idea. If you need to use a cell phone while driving, use it hands-free and with voice activation whenever possible. Furthermore, be sure to keep your windshield clean. Some drivers get distracted by smudges or dirt on their windshields.

    • Beware of aggressive drivers.

      Drivers who weave in traffic, tailgate, and generally make the roads less safe and enjoyable for other drivers are out there. You should take the following actions if you encounter an aggressive driver:

      • Keep your distance from them, and don’t engage with them.
      • Look straight ahead, avoid eye contact, and ignore rude gestures.
      • Don’t block the passing lane if you’re driving slower than most traffic.
    • Drive in safe weather conditions.

      Any bad weather, such as rain, ice, or snow, can make driving difficult. Instead of driving immediately, take the bus, taxi, or ridesharing service, or wait until the weather improves.

    • Check in with yourself.

      A hard, honest look at your driving ability may be needed if your relatives, friends, or others are concerned about your driving. Don’t hesitate to ask a family member or friend for help when driving becomes difficult or if you’re confused. Having a conversation does not necessarily mean you will give up driving; it may simply mean you won’t drive at night or you’ll hire a relative to transport you when you need to travel long distances.

    • Drive with a second pair of eyes.

      Having a passenger who can serve as a “second pair of eyes” can be helpful to elderly drivers since they can compensate for aging-related changes in vision, reaction time, and judgment. Additional observers can help monitor blind spots, navigate complex traffic situations, and provide assistance in emergencies. Safety on the road is enhanced, and reassurance is provided to both the driver and passengers.

    • Consider your car.

      Drive a car with power steering, automatic transmission, power brakes, and large mirrors. Some newer cars come with backup cameras, which make parking and backing up more manageable, and sensors that can alert a driver to nearby objects or vehicles. An occupational therapist (OT) or certified driving rehabilitation specialist (CDRS) can recommend driving aids that make steering or operating foot pedals easier.

    What To Do For A Safe Drive
      • Maintain your car regularly to keep it in good working condition.
      • Keep your windows and headlights clean at all times.
      • Install wide-angle mirrors to reduce blind spots. Be sure to practice using these before using them in traffic, as they may distort the image you see.
      • Check your car’s tires.
    • Look into adapted vehicles.

      With technological improvements and increased availability, more people are using adapted vehicles. Older people can often drive safely by modifying or adding adaptive vehicle equipment.

      Reduced glare and improved night vision can be achieved with smart headlights (also called adaptive headlights).

      • When changing lanes or parking, blind-spot warning systems alert you to objects in your blind spots.
      • When you travel outside your lane, lane departure warning systems warn you.
      • You can back up safely using a backup camera to see if there are any objects behind you. A tool like this is helpful for drivers who have limited flexibility.
      • Cars with assistive parking systems can park themselves or indicate their distance from other parked cars to make parking easier.

    Is There Anything That Senior Drivers Should Prioritize When Choosing A Car?

    When considering safe driving for seniors, the choice of vehicles is essential. Safety, comfort, technology, and wired features are all important considerations when selecting the best car for elderly drivers.

    Safety Features

    Undoubtedly, all vehicles are safer today than ever before. In addition to rearview cameras, blind-spot monitoring is another critical safety feature in new car models. You can also find parking sensors at the front and rear of your vehicle. These sensors can help you avoid objects that may cause minor dents.

    Comfort Features

    You can achieve comfortable driving by adjusting your seat according to your height. Seating positions should be considered when adjusting steering wheels, mirrors, and air conditioning. This would make it easier for you to reach all the controls.

    Heating seats in cold weather and air-conditioning seats in hotter climates can increase comfort. A lumbar support seat can greatly benefit drivers suffering from back problems.

    Accessibility Features

    Many seniors buy a new vehicle only to find it challenging to get in and out of it regularly. Before finalizing your new car, practice entering and exiting your choices.

    Additional Technology

    Ensure you understand your new car’s gadgetry before leaving the car dealership. Having a general understanding of how everything works will ensure you stay focused while driving. Lessons can be arranged at your dealership, and you can practice independently at home.

    Research conducted by the American Automobile Association and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute evaluated 16 innovative vehicle technologies. This study found that older adults were less stressed while driving when they used these five features.

    Forward collision alerts

    When buying safe cars for seniors, consider the forward collision alert feature. Several newer cars have these systems that can warn you before you crash. The car automatically applies the brakes when a potential collision is detected. This technology may improve reaction times and reduce crashes by up to 20%, according to the AAA/UMTRI study.

    Automatic crash notifications

    It is possible to notify emergency services about a crash without calling 911. Communication technology is available in some cars. If your airbags go off in a crash, your car will notify emergency services that you’ve been involved in an accident.

    Parking assists with a rearview display

    When a driver backs up, a camera behind enables them to see what is behind them. You can park more quickly this way. A car with obstacle detection may also warn you if it is about to strike something.

    Navigation support

    Using GPS systems with turn-by-turn directions improves driving safety, confidence, and relaxation among older drivers. However, some of these systems can be distracting and challenging to use. Consider one that is user-friendly.

    Self-parking systems

    Parallel parking on some cars is automated with technology that takes over steering control.

    Inspecting And Maintaining Your Vehicle

    inspecting and maintaining your vehicleIssues lurking under the hood between safety inspections can create an unsafe situation for any driver. To protect yourself and other road users, you should regularly inspect your vehicle’s safety components and other parts to ensure they function correctly.

    The following checklist can help you troubleshoot your car based on suggested timelines:

    Weekly Check Recommendations
    • Check tire pressure to ensure it is within the pressure range listed on the tire.
    • Make sure tires have adequate tread—at least a 16th-inch depth between all treads. You can measure tread depth using the penny test. Here are the steps:
      1. Put a penny between the tread ribs of your tire. Ribs are raised portions of tread around your tire’s circumference.
      2. Orient the penny so Lincoln’s head points downward.
      3. Check to see if the top of his head disappears between the ribs. If it does, your tread is still enough. When the entire head is visible, it could mean that the tire needs to be replaced.
      4. Remember to check various places around each tire when performing the penny tire test. Look closely at the areas that seem to be most worn. Any tire that fails the penny test despite having a tread depth of more than a 16th of an inch still needs to be replaced.
    • Inspect all tires for even tire wear. Look for dry rot (cracking), bumps, bulges, and tread separation.
    • Make sure the oil level is within the car’s operating range.
    • Make sure the battery terminals are not corroded or leaky.
    • Inspect the engine compartment for any signs of fluid leaks.
    • Ensure that the radiator level in the overflow tank is at the appropriate operating level.
    • Check the headlights, turn signals, and tail lights for cracks and ensure they function correctly.
    • Make sure the horn is working correctly.
    • Ensure that the fuel cap is present and fits appropriately.
    • Check seat belts for any unusual wear or malfunctioning parts.
    Monthly Check Recommendations
    • Inspect the mirrors and windows for any cracks, and examine the windshield for cracks in the area where the wipers operate.
    • Make sure the wiper blades are not leaving streaks and are cleaning the windshield properly.
    • Ensure that the license plate is readable and reflective, and check for any damage or scratches that could affect its appearance.
    • Make sure that the brake lights and emergency flashers are functioning correctly.
    • Check if the fluid levels for power steering, brakes, transmission, engine oil, and battery (if applicable) are within the recommended ranges. Refer to the vehicle owner’s manual for their location and proper levels.
    • Check spare tires, jacks, and emergency equipment to ensure they’re in good working condition.

    Always prioritize safety when working on any project. Before inspecting under the hood, ensure your vehicle’s engine has cooled down and the parking brake is applied. While using a checklist to troubleshoot your vehicle is helpful, it should not replace regularly scheduled maintenance. It’s advisable to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.

    Car Insurance For Senior Citizens

    Older drivers can get car insurance at a lower cost than younger ones due to their extensive driving experience. They’re less likely to file accident claims, which means they cost less to insure. However, rates may increase once drivers reach their 70s because people in this age have a higher risk of being in an accident. Not to mention, they’re more prone to injuries in the event of a vehicle accident, leading to expensive medical bills and other costly expenses.

    Still, it’s a good idea for older drivers to review their insurance policies occasionally to find more affordable senior citizen car insurance providers. Plus, to ensure they’re getting the best rates and coverage.

    Special Requirements And Considerations

    Most states mandate providing evidence of insurance or financial responsibility to register a vehicle and get license plates. However, seven states do not require it for registration, including Arizona, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin. Every state except for New Hampshire requires drivers to have basic liability insurance.

    Discounts

    Most insurance companies provide car insurance discounts to older drivers because drivers over 55 are more likely to drive safely. Some discounts depend on age, whereas others are earned by completing approved accident prevention courses for senior drivers.

    1. Defensive driving course

      Different states have different rules, but drivers 55 and older may qualify for car insurance discounts if they complete a state-approved driving course and meet all state-licensed driving requirements. These courses usually teach safe driving techniques, road rules, new technology use, and how health issues affect your driving ability. AARP, AAA, and the NSC are among those organizations that provide classes specifically designed for mature drivers.

    2. Clean driving record

      Indeed, being a safe driver can help you save money on car insurance. Some insurance companies offer a special driver discount if you have a clean driving record. If you haven’t had any accidents during a particular period, you could save up to 20% on most types of coverage.

    3. Military and federal government discounts

      Some insurance companies offer specific car insurance discounts to qualifying active-duty and retired armed forces members, federal employees, and other individuals associated with military-related affinity groups. These discounts usually vary between 12% and 15%. Contact your insurance company to learn how to benefit from these discounts.

    What Resources Are Available For Senior Drivers?

    Everybody wants to be able to drive independently, but taking certain medications or having health problems can make it challenging to do so safely.

    The increasing concern over elderly driving accidents has prompted policymakers and various organizations to explore effective strategies for enhancing road safety among older drivers.

    That said, here are some resources to help and support senior drivers:

    • AAA Senior Driving: The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety website provides driving advice, safety measures, and mobility options for seniors and their families.
    • AARP: Committed to supporting the needs and interests of individuals aged 50 and above, AARP aims to encourage independence, dignity, and purpose.
    • Community Transportation Association of America: This association, composed of organizations and individuals, strives to eliminate isolation barriers and enhance mobility for everyone.
    • Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully: This booklet by NHTSA provides older drivers with safe driving information, checklists, and tips for accommodations.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Older Adult Drivers’ page, supported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, offers information on senior drivers, such as statistics on older drivers, their vulnerability to accidents, and ways to stay safe.
    • Eldercare Locator: The Eldercare Locator, a service of the U.S. Administration on Community Living, connects individuals needing support with local agencies and organizations that assist older adults and their caregivers.
    • National Institute on Aging: The National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine website features health information tailored for seniors.
    • ITNAmerica: ITNAmerica offers public transportation through shared rides and advanced planning. They provide senior transportation within the community, all thanks to the research supported by the AARP, Federal Transit Administration, and the Transportation Research Board.
    • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: IIHS’s research centers on finding solutions to reduce losses in vehicle crashes by addressing human, vehicular, and environmental factors.
    • The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute: The University of Michigan provides an online tool, “Enhanced Driving Decisions Workbook,” to anonymously assess any health issues that might impact your safe driving.

    Tips On How To Talk With Seniors About Unsafe Driving

    The likelihood of death in a car accident rises as people get older, particularly for individuals in their 80s who are more delicate and susceptible to injury. If you’re worried about an older adult’s driving ability, address your concerns immediately before accidents occur. However, talking to older adults about their driving abilities can be challenging.

    Driving is often seen as a symbol of independence, personal freedom, and competence. As such, it can be hard for seniors to accept the idea of giving up that freedom. Here are a few suggestions when discussing unsafe driving with your elderly parents or loved ones:

    Plan ahead.

    First, consider creating a strategy for discussing the subject with the older driver. Please take a moment to understand how the driver sees the situation and the importance of driving to them. Schedule your conversation for a calm time of day when both you and the driver are relaxed and refreshed.

    Use reflective listening.

    At times like this, it’s best to provide a listening ear. Use reflective listening if possible, as it may help your elderly loved ones understand and acknowledge the issue. This communication style will encourage them to continue discussing and reflecting on their concerns.

    Check on other issues affecting driving.

    If your elderly loved one admits to having difficulty driving, ask them about their worries. Schedule appointments with their physician and eye specialist if it’s health-related. Inquire about their medication, any side effects, and possible drug interactions. Getting a new prescription or a stronger pair of glasses might also enhance their driving abilities.

    Aid the transition from driving.

    There are various ways to support your loved one during this transition. You can lend a sympathetic ear, listen to their worries, and reminisce about driving experiences together. Also, watch for any signs of depression and be there for them by encouraging social connections or helping with their transportation needs.

    Hiring personal drivers for the elderly can also greatly enhance their overall well-being. Plus, it’ll still allow seniors to maintain their independence and access necessary services without the difficulties of driving on their own.

    Practical steps to putting away the keys.

    Make the transition to a car-free life easier by exploring free local paratransit options, finding accessible or affordable informal transportation arrangements, and assisting elderly individuals in finding non-driving activities. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging offers a transportation guide for senior citizens.

    What Signs Indicate My Elderly Parents Are Not Safe To Drive?

    If your parent is having difficulty seeing, hearing, or remembering things, driving could be dangerous for them and others. There are several warning signs indicating that your elderly loved ones are no longer safe to drive, including the following:

    • Experiencing uneasiness, anxiety, or fear when driving
    • The car, fences, mailboxes, and garage doors all have inexplicable dents and scrapes
    • Having frequent “close calls’ (i.e., almost crashing)
    • Getting lost
    • Delayed response to unexpected situations
    • Easily distracted or having a hard time focusing while driving
    • Difficulty staying in the traffic lane
    • Inability to pay attention to signals, road signs, and pavement markings
    • Inability to accurately gauge traffic gaps at intersections and on highway entrance or exit ramps
    • Medications or any medical conditions that may be affecting the ability to handle a car safely
    • Frequent traffic tickets by law enforcement officers in the last two years
    • Changes in health or behavior can also increase the chances of accidents. If a person’s mental or physical condition deteriorates, they may struggle to concentrate or control the vehicle properly.

    Here are some more signs that someone may be too old to drive:

    • Memory lapses or disorientation
    • Difficulty with mobility, leg discomfort, or muscle weakness
    • Shortness of breath or dizziness
    • Lack of balance
    • Stiffness in joints
    • Unusual irritability or aggression
    • Disregarding stop signs or traffic lights
    • Inability to identify right-of-way
    • Forgetting speed limits or failing to recall them
    • Not using turn signals when changing lanes
    • Getting lost frequently, even in familiar places
    • Inconsistent speed control
    • Challenges with judging distances between vehicles and objects
    • Difficulty merging or changing lanes
    • Frequent close calls that could lead to accidents
    • Experiencing road rage, anxiety, or stress while driving
    Restrictions For Unsafe Drivers

    As people get older, their driving skills may be affected by changes in their physical and mental abilities. However, many seniors continue to be responsible drivers as they age. To ensure the safety of some seniors on the road, the DMV may issue a restricted driver’s license after receiving information from a doctor or family member following an accident.

    What Are The California DMV Rules For Seniors?

    The DMV can impose certain conditions on a person’s driver’s license if a driving examiner finds any issues during your driving test. The examiner will consider your test results, vision test, and personal situation. The DMV may also establish some ground rules using the data that you, your family, your doctor, or law enforcement provide. The DMV takes these decisions seriously and will only impose restrictions necessary for your safety.

    Avoid driving at night

    One of the most common restrictions for elderly drivers is the mandatory use of glasses or corrective contact lenses. The California DMV can impose additional rules on older drivers, including:

    • Avoiding driving on freeways
    • Not driving at night
    • Restricting driving during rush hour or specific times of the day
    • Installing an extra right-side mirror on the vehicle
    • Using lumbar supports for a comfortable driving position
    • Wearing bioptic telescopic lenses while driving
    • Limiting driving within some geographic regions
    Requesting An Unsafe Driver Investigation In California

    The California DMV accepts information from various sources, such as drivers, courts, police, other DMVs, family members, etc. Although they do not accept anonymous reports about unsafe driving, individuals can request to keep their names confidential, and the DMV promises to respect their privacy as much as possible.

    You have two options when requesting the DMV to review driving qualifications:

    • You can write a letter that identifies the driver causing concern and explains the reasons for reporting them. Then, send it to the local Driver Safety Office.
    • Alternatively, you can fill out the Request for Driver Reexamination form and send it by mail or visit any of the DMV locations mentioned on the form.
    Mandatory Reporting For Doctors

    California is among the few states that mandate doctors to report diagnoses of disorders that may affect driving, like Alzheimer’s disease and lapses of consciousness, to the local health department. The health department then shares this information with the DMV, who can suspend the patient’s license or request a driving test.

    Protect Yourself On The Road With A Mature Driver Improvement Program

    One way to improve your driving skills is by taking a Mature Driver Improvement Program designed specifically for older drivers. The program is effective and affordable and covers various topics that are particularly relevant to mature drivers. This safe driving class for seniors lasts eight hours and is available to drivers who are 55 years old or older.

    If you finish the program, your insurance company might give you discounts. Get in touch with your insurance provider and give them a copy of your completion certificate. The certificate is valid for three years. To renew it, you need to complete another four-hour course. DMV-approved providers offer senior safety driving courses. For more information, check out the DMV’s driver’s guide for seniors.

    How To Get A License Reinstated

    If the DMV chooses to suspend or revoke your driver’s license, you can ask for a DMV administrative hearing. This hearing will provide you with a fair and unbiased judgment on matters related to your driver’s license professionally.

    At the hearing, you can explain to the DMV why you believe you should be allowed to keep your driver’s license. If your license has been suspended or revoked in California, you may also contact one of the DMV Driver Safety Offices throughout the state.

    How To Secure Parking Placards Or License Plates For A Disabled Senior Driver

    Every two years, you must renew your permanent disabled parking permit in California. You can apply for a Disabled Person (DP) placard or DP License Plates for all your vehicles without any extra charge if you are a qualified, permanently disabled individual. Find out if you meet the requirements and learn about the application process.

    Disabled placards and plates are provided for individuals with:

    • Difficulties with moving around
    • Serious heart or circulatory condition
    • Severe respiratory condition
    • A diagnosed condition that significantly affects the use of lower extremities
    • Specific vision impairments, such as low vision or partial sight
    • Absence or inability to use one or both legs or hands

    Here’s how to apply for a DP placard:

    • Apply online using the Disabled Person Parking Placard Form Application. Or apply by mail or in person. You must complete and sign an Application for Disabled Person Placard or Plates (REG 195).
    • Ensure that the Medical Provider’s Certification of Disability section of your application REG 195 is completed and signed by a licensed physician, physician assistant, chiropractor, surgeon, nurse practitioner, or certified nurse midwife knowledgeable about the disease or disability.
    • Pay the applicable fees when requesting a temporary placard.
    • Send your original application, which must be filled out and signed, to the address on the form.

    Here’s how to apply for DP License Plates:

    • Fill out an Application for Disabled Person Placard or Plates (REG 195).
    • Have a licensed physician, physician assistant, chiropractor, surgeon, optometrist, nurse practitioner, or certified nurse midwife who knows about the disease and disability complete and sign the Medical Provider’s Certification of Disability section of REG 195.
    • Present the registration card currently under your name or submit the necessary documents to register the vehicle under your name.
    • Pay the standard registration fees due on the vehicle.
    • Return the license plates currently on the car.
    Getting A Medical Certification

    Disabled person parking placards and license plates can be given to California drivers who have limited mobility if their condition is verified by a:

    • Surgeon
    • Licensed physician
    • Physician’s assistant
    • Nurse practitioner
    • Certified nurse-midwife

    Furthermore, the following medical experts can confirm the need for a placard for particular disabilities:

    • Licensed chiropractor (for the loss of use of one or both feet)
    • Licensed optometrist (for visual conditions, including low vision or blindness)
    • Licensed podiatrist (for foot or ankle disabilities)

    However, there’s no need for medical certification if you have lost both hands or a foot.

    What Should Seniors Expect When Renewing Their Driver’s License?

    The process for senior driver’s license renewal is designed to make sure that older drivers regularly have their driving skills evaluated. This helps promote road safety and address any issues that may arise due to aging and driving.

    In California, drivers who are 65–70 years old and older might have to renew their licenses. The process of renewal will differ depending on the state. In certain states, senior drivers may have to renew their licenses in person, electronically, or by mail. Meanwhile, some states may only allow drivers to renew their licenses in person.

    Tests That Seniors Need To Retake When Renewing Licenses

    Some seniors may need to retake the written and road exams when renewing their driver’s licenses. They might also have to take a free vision test. However, in many states, drivers can submit vision reports from licensed optometrists, ophthalmologists, or physicians within six months before the renewal request.

    In a nutshell, the CA DMV renewal test for seniors is necessary to evaluate and guarantee that older drivers possess the required knowledge and abilities to drive safely.

    Special Licenses

    Say you have a disability that affects your mobility and requires you to use assistive devices like a cane, wheelchair, or walker. In that case, you may be eligible for a handicapped parking permit. However, the rules and qualifications for obtaining a permit may differ from state to state.

    Depending on your disability, some states offer both temporary and permanent permits. These permits usually come as a placard that can be hung from your rearview mirror. In some states, you may also obtain permanent handicap license plates, often available for free or for a small fee.

    Elderly Driving Laws By State – Senior Driving Resources

    State License Renewals Proof Of Adequate Vision Mail or Online Renewal Permitted
    AL Every 4 years No Online – every other renewal
    AK Every 5 years 69 and older, every renewal 69 and older – not permitted
    AR 70 and older – every 4 – 8 years Every other renewal No
    AZ 65 and older – every 5 years Every renewal No
    CA Every 5 years 70 and older, every renewal 70 and older – not permitted
    CO Every 5 years Every renewal 66 and older – every other renewal
    CT 65 and older – every 2 years No No
    DC Every 8 years Every renewal 70 and older – not permitted
    DE Every 8 years Every renewal No
    FL 80 and older – every 6 years 80 and older, every renewal Every other renewal
    GA Every 8 years Every renewal 64 and older – not permitted
    HI 72 and older – every 2 years Every renewal Every 2 consecutive renewals but must appear at least every 16 years
    IA 72 and older – every 2 years 70 and older, every renewal 70 and older – not permitted
    ID 63 and older – every 4 years Every renewal 70 and older – not permitted
    IL 81 to 86 – every 2 years
    87 and older – every year
    75 and older, every renewal Every other renewal
    IN 75 to 84 – every 3 years
    85 and older – every 2 years
    75 and older, every renewal Every other renewal
    KS 65 and older – every 4 years Every renewal No
    KY Every 8 years No No
    LA Every 6 years 70 and older, every renewal 70 and older – not permitted
    MA Every 5 years 75 and older, every renewal 75 and older – not permitted
    MD Every 8 years 40 and older, every renewal Every other renewal
    ME 65 and older – every 4 years 62 and older, every renewal 62 and older – not permitted
    MI Every 4 years When renewing in person Every other renewal
    MN Every 4 years Every renewal No
    MO 70 and older – every 3 years Every renewal No
    MS Every 4 to 8 years No Every other renewal
    MT 75 and older – every 4 years Every renewal Every other renewal
    NC 66 and older – every 5 years Every renewal Every other renewal
    ND 78 and older – every 4 years Every renewal 65 and older – not permitted
    NE Every 5 years 72 and older, every renewal 72 and older – not permitted
    NH Every 5 years Every renewal Every other renewal
    NJ 70 and older – every 2 to 4 years Every 10 years By mail only unless new photo is required
    NM 71 to 78 – every 4 years
    79 and older – every year
    75 and older, every renewal 75 and older – not permitted
    NV 65 and older – every 4 years 71 and older, every renewal 65 and older – every other renewal
    NY Every 8 years Every renewal No restrictions
    OH Every 4 years Every renewal No
    OK Every 4 years No No
    OR Every 8 years 50 and older, every renewal No
    PA 65 and older – every 2 to 4 years No No restrictions
    RI 75 and older – every 2 years Every renewal Every other renewal
    SC Every 8 years Every renewal No restrictions
    SD Every 5 years 65 and older, every renewal Every other renewal
    TN Every 8 years No No restrictions
    TX 85 and older – every 2 years 79 and older, every renewal 79 and older – not permitted
    UT Every 8 years 65 and older, every renewal Every other renewal
    VA 75 and older – every 5 years 75 and older, every renewal 75 and older – not permitted
    VT Every 2 to 4 years No By mail only unless a new photo is required
    WA Every 6 years Every renewal 70 and older – not permitted
    WI Every 8 years Every renewal No
    WV Every 8 years Every renewal Online – every other renewal
    WY Every 5 years Every 10 years By mail – every other renewal

    Driving Laws For Seniors In California

    Understanding the landscape of elderly driver laws sheds light on the regulations designed for safety and independence. Such laws include a reevaluation of driving abilities, requirements for medical check-ups, and potential restrictions on specific driving conditions.

    There are over 9 million drivers in California who are 55 or older, with 2.9 million of them 70 years old or older. Although the California DMV enforces rules and regulations for all drivers, older drivers are subject to some special requirements and restrictions.

    Some California state regulations are explained below, particularly those focusing on identifying and managing elderly drivers. Specifically, California:

    • Requires drivers who are 70 years old and above to renew their driver’s licenses in person and complete both a vision test and a written test
    • Accepts requests from family members and others for the DMV to investigate unsafe drivers
    • Requires doctors to report the diagnosis if they find that patients have conditions that could potentially make them unsafe drivers

    California Drivers License Renewal For Seniors

    Here are some things to take note of regarding the CA driver’s license renewal for seniors:

    Time limits: Drivers aged 70 and above should renew their driver’s license in person every five years. This law has been in effect since 1978, but Governor Gavin Newsom waived it in October 2020.

    Vision test: Required at in-person renewal. You can take the test for free with DMV personnel or have an exam done by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. If you choose the latter, the exam must be completed within six months of your renewal request, and the doctor must fill out a Report of Vision Examination.

    Written test: The DMV written test for seniors in California is required in person during renewal.

    Road test: Only necessary if there are signs of driver impairment based on a report from a police officer, doctor, or family member.

    DMV’s Senior Ombudsman

    The primary role of the Senior Ombudsman is to advocate for the safety of all Californians, particularly senior drivers. Ombudsmen act as mediators to guarantee that senior drivers are treated fairly and in compliance with laws and regulations. Although the Senior Ombudsman cannot legally represent you in a DMV hearing or reexamination, they can offer you helpful tools and information.

    For information about driving as a senior, contact the Senior Ombudsman Program in your area:

    • Los Angeles and Central Coast Counties (310) 615-3552
    • Sacramento and Northern California Counties (916) 657-6464 or (916) 657-7109
    • Orange and San Diego Counties (714) 705-1588
    • San Francisco, Oakland, and Bay Area (510) 563-8998
    When To Consider Alternative Transportation

    Many of us spend a large part of our lives driving to work, doing errands for our loved ones, going out for a fun night, or traveling long distances. However, there may be instances when we must prioritize our safety and that of our passengers and fellow drivers.

    Many choices are available for seniors who are hesitant to depend on their family and friends for transportation. Ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber are convenient, and numerous local senior services provide complimentary rides. Additionally, most counties in the U.S. offer accessible or affordable public transportation services specifically designed for seniors who require door-to-door rides.

    Interested to learn more about these programs? It’s best to contact your county’s Area Agency on Aging. They will assist you in connecting with the relevant local programs.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    At what age do most seniors stop driving?

    There’s no age set at which people should give up driving. However, according to the AARP, the ideal age people give up driving is 75.

    Statistics from the NHTSA show that elderly drivers have a higher chance of being involved in vehicular accidents than younger drivers. Meanwhile, the CDC reports that more than 20 older adults are killed, and around 700 are injured in motor vehicle crashes every day.

    What specific challenges do seniors face behind the wheel?

    Once drivers reach their mid-60s and beyond, age-related factors can cause a decline in their ability to drive safely. Seniors specifically face the following challenges when driving:

    • Decreased visual clarity for both near and far distances, as well as conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts
    • Slower reflexes
    • Trouble recalling familiar routes
    • Difficulty navigating unfamiliar areas
    • Increased fear and anxiety while driving
    • Challenges in maintaining a consistent speed or staying within a lane.
    How can older drivers stay behind the wheel for as long as possible?

    Surprisingly, older drivers are still capable of driving. Here are some tips for older drivers who want to continue driving for as long as possible:

    • Modifying your vehicle
    • Adjusting your driving style
    • Addressing any physical issues that can affect driving

    Stay Safe On The Road With Arash Law

    Driving as a senior comes with its own challenges. While we hope for smooth and safe rides, accidents can still happen. That’s where Arash Law steps in.

    Led by Arash Khorsandi, Esq., our team of personal injury lawyers understands the difficulties senior drivers face. We’re not merely legal experts—we fight for accident victims to ensure their voices are heard so that they get the justice and compensation they deserve.

    With years of experience handling personal injury cases, Arash Law has secured over $500 Million in settlements and compensation for victims in California. Accidents can happen, but you don’t have to face them alone. Call us at (888) 488-1391 today for a free consultation.

    You May Be Entitled to Compensation
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    We’ll tell you if you have a case or not within five minutes, call (888) 488-1391

    DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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