How can older drivers improve safety?

An older African-American man and woman are in the car. The man is driving, and both people are smiling.

“Traffic fatalities are a substantial and preventable public health challenge in America. African-American and Hispanic Americans have higher traffic fatality rates per mile traveled than White Americans across the transportation system, requiring urgent attention,” according to Disparities in Activity and Traffic Fatalities by Race/Ethnicity by Matthew A. Raifman and Ernani F. Choma, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Raifman found that fatality rates per 100 million miles traveled are systematically higher for African-American and Hispanic Americans for all modes of transportation; including cycling and walking. Traffic fatalities are preventable and a public health crisis in America.

African-American Americans are 4 times more likely while cycling and 2 times more likely while walking to have a fatality occur than White Americans (Raifman and Choma). ChORUS offers resources to help improve pedestrian and bicycle safety.  These resources include pedestrian safety training, individual state information, and a walkability checklist, to help you evaluate the walkability and safety of your neighborhood.

According to Johns Hopkins University, “an estimated 7 to 12 percent of Americans age 65 and older are considered frail. Risk [of frailty] rises with age—from one in 25 people between ages 65 and 74 to one in four of those older than age 84.” Frailty may lead to longer recovery times or permanent injury in the event of a crash. Johns Hopkins also says “frailty increases the risk of infections, illnesses that have to be treated in the hospital, falls and even disabilities.” Fragility is another concern with aging. Frailty and fragility can lead to fatal outcomes in the event of a crash.

To prevent crashes and improve traffic safety, older Americans can assess their driving ability in real-time with screening and assessment tools from ChORUS. These tools are not intended to diagnose but may indicate that further assessment, medical intervention, and/or planning are necessary.

Older drivers can also work with a driving rehabilitation specialist. A driver rehabilitation specialist can help assess an older driver’s safety behind the wheel and make suggestions and/or adaptations to help an older driver achieve safety. Find out what to expect when working with a driver rehabilitation specialist and find a driver rehabilitation specialist in your area at ChORUS.

In addition, older Americans can plan for their transportation future with the Transportation Planning Tool. Planning for your transportation future includes planning for unforeseen medical changes, budgeting, and discovering transportation alternatives to driving that are available to you.

Systematic problems in America increase the fatality risk for African-American and Hispanic drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. ChORUS encourages all older drivers to consider behavior changes to promote traffic safety. In addition to accessing the pedestrian and bicycle safety resources noted above, this might include reducing when and where you drive to avoid driving at night, during rush hour, or in unfamiliar areas.  Utilize the Road Safe Seniors website to find resources for older driver safety.

Related resources:

Disparities in Activity and Traffic Fatalities by Race/Ethnicity

Governors Highway Safety Association, An Analysis of Traffic Fatalities by Race and Ethnicity

Journal of the Transportation Research Board: United States Pedestrian Fatality Trends 1977 – 2016

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report Tables