Information provided by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is joining with local programs to observe Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, Dec. 2-6, 2019. The goal of the program is to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation for older adults and to ensure they can remain active in their communities without transportation becoming a barrier to their mobility.
In 2018 there were 129 drivers over 65 years old involved in fatal crashes. In that same year, 74 older drivers died in car crashes. Older drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash due to the greater fragility of their aging bodies.
Research suggests that older adults can expect to outlive their ability to drive safely by seven to ten years.
“Older adults want to maintain their independence as they age and their independence is linked to their cars,” said Maile Gray, executive director of Drive Smart Colorado. “Drivers who use self-management to review their driving skills can retain their independence longer while limiting risks to themselves and others.”
A proactive way for older adults to enhance their safety behind the wheel is to be sure their car is properly adjusted. In 2019 CDOT sponsored 57 CarFit events around the state. At these events volunteers check for:
- A seat belt that holds the driver in the proper position and remains comfortable while driving.
- The tilt of the steering wheel and position of the airbag.
- Plenty of room (at least 10 inches) between the chest and the airbag
- A properly adjusted head restraint.
- A clear line of sight above the steering wheel and dash.
- Easy access to gas and brake pedals.
- Properly adjusted mirrors.
- Ability to see around the vehicle by reducing the driver’s blind spots.
- The ability to turn the vehicle’s ignition key with ease or operate an ignition system.
- Easy operation of vehicle controls including turn signals, headlights, emergency flashers, windshield wipers, and the parking brake, among others.
Drivers can find a Car-Fit event at www.car-fit.org.
As part of the aging process, some people experience physical, cognitive, and sensory changes that can affect driving. Taking notice of changes such as having trouble seeing at night can be remedied by choosing to restrict driving to daylight hours. Those experiencing anxiety about driving in heavy traffic may find errands to be more pleasant if they plan to drive at times other than rush hour.
“With increasing age come changes in physical, mental and sensory abilities that can challenge a person’s continued ability to drive safely,” said Sylvia Cordy, a traffic safety advocate with the Denver-based Reaching Older Adult Drivers program. “But there are a variety of safe travel options and focusing on these solutions is key.”
There are a variety of ways older adults can get around in their communities without driving. These include:
- Asking for rides from friends, family members, and neighbors
- Using public transit or ride share programs
- Taking advantage of transportation services offered by grocery stores, places of worship, malls, and others
A list of Public Transit Services in Colorado is available at olderwiser.org.
Additionally, Colorado’s Guide for Aging Drivers and Their Families is available for free and can serve as an excellent resource to answer most questions including license reexamination and laws, resources for Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, Area Agency on Aging centers, and more. The guide can be downloaded at www.drivesmartcolorado.com or hard copies can be requested by sending an email to [email protected].