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Are elderly drivers a danger on the road?

The number of older drivers in the U.S. has increased substantially over the past 20 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 45 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in 2018, a 60% increase since 2000.

The CDC also reports that drivers over the age of 70 have a higher accident death rate per mile than drivers between the ages of 34-54. In 2019, more than 8,000 elderly drivers were killed in car accidents, and an additional 250,000 were injured.

Elderly driving hazards

As people age, they often experience a decline in their sensory and cognitive functioning abilities. This includes stiffened or weakened muscles, joint pain, trouble hearing, inability to concentrate and focus and difficulty remembering.

Conditions that affect vision, such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration, can also inhibit a person’s ability to drive.

In North Carolina, mature drivers must renew their licenses every eight years. Drivers over the age of 66, however, must apply for a renewal every 5 years. This significant span of time allows some elderly drivers to retain their licenses, even if they have experienced serious changes in their ability to operate a vehicle.

Accident prevention

There are several steps older drivers can take to minimize their risk of getting involved in a serious car accident. These include the following:

  • Avoid driving in bad weather conditions or at night
  • Always wear a seat belt
  • Make sure your vehicle is working properly
  • Avoid distractions while driving, such as eating or using a cellphone
  • Slow down and remain cautious

Older drivers should always have their eyes checked and wear corrective lenses while driving if needed.


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