Safety Risks Among Older Drivers Is Focus Of Awareness Campaign By NHTSA, CDC, AARP and Other Groups

As part of a nationwide campaign running this week, a number of safety groups are joining together to encourage families to talk with their elderly loved ones about the potential driving challenges and risks they may face, highlighting an increasing number of fatalities over the past decade involving older drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other supporting organizations have launched the Older Driver Safety Awareness Week campaign, which will run from December 7 to 11, recommending that families discuss safety risks among older drivers before it becomes a problem.

Since 1999, the number of Americans over the age of 65 has increased by 63%, now accounting for more than 44 million licensed drivers. As the population has aged, recent data suggests that seniors are also driving more frequently, especially with advancements in medicine and increasing average life expectancy.

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However, the rates of fatal auto accidents involving senior drivers has also increased over the past decade by 30%. Supporting data from the CDC indicates, on average, 20 older adults are killed and an additional 700 are injured in motor vehicle crashes daily.

While some motorists are able to drive well into their elderly years, the awareness campaign highlights the importance of discussing transportation plans for those with medical conditions, problems with eyesight, sleep, tremors, or memory loss that can make driving more dangerous to themselves, passengers, other motorists and pedestrians.

Many seniors taking prescription medications, or a combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications, could be at a higher risk of the drugs causing impaired judgement, slower reflexes, or causing diminished awareness, all of which can increase the risk of a serious or fatal crash.

Officials suggests families discuss which modern driver assistance technologies are available which could allow seniors to continue driving safely, such as back up cameras, automatic emergency braking and blind-spot detectors which assist with mobility, diminished reflexes and eye sight complications.

Although bringing up the topic to elderly drivers may be difficult, the agencies are advising families to pursue having safe driving conversations earlier rather than later, to prevent injuries or fatalities. The campaign advises family members to avoid generalizations and never jump to conclusions about an individual’s driving skills or abilities. The federal agencies also recommend the conversation be held in a private setting and should only focus on the facts, such as know medical complications, that could hinder driving.

The awareness campaign includes an effort to provide resources to the public on how to begin a transportation plan. The American Occupational Therapy Association, AARP and AAA are also sponsoring the campaign and will contribute educational material on making a plan.

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