December 28, 2013 — We don’t think any self-respecting baby boomer is ready for this news item: People over 65 years old accounted for 17 percent of the crash fatalities in 2012 but only 13 percent of the U.S. population. In other words, as we age we become less capable drivers than the general population. Most of us have had parents or aging friends who continue to drive at great risk to themselves and others. But no boomer wants to think about the day out in the future when our car keys are the ones being confiscated.
Perhaps more irritating than this news were the headlines that came with it, like: “Keeping Grandma and Grandpa Safe on the Roads”. Sure, we’re old enough and frequently are grandparents, but the notion that baby boomers are somehow “senior citizens” just doesn’t seem right.
The Silver Lining
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is concerned about the issue because of the increasing number of baby boomers who will be 65+ drivers in the next 20-30 years. So it has issued a five-year plan for protecting older drivers. One part of the plan is potential “Silver” car safety ratings in its New Car Assessment Program that would focus on how safe a car is for the 65-and-over crowd. The agency also released model guidelines for states to keep older drivers safe. Here is more info on the NHTSA plan.
The AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence are also working on the issue, and that is the good news coming out this. Fortunately there are some exercises that can improve the driving skills of people 50+. Part of the problem is that as we age we have a harder time turning our necks to see blind spots when changing lanes or backing up. The exercises help drivers rotate their bodies further to scan the driving environment while making turns. The New York Times recently had a related article that talked about special driving coaches that help older people (yikes, soon that will be us!) maintain and improve their safe driving skills.
Comments? How is your driving going? Are you worried about losing your ability to drive? Or you among the people who think they will never be affected by age? Let us know in the comments section below.