Mountain View Medical Supply

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What you should know about seniors and driving

In the United States, there are 23 million drivers aged 70 and above, and it is estimated that by 2020, more than 40 million licensed drivers will be aged 65 and older.  While older drivers are considered safer drivers because they use seatbelts, rarely speed, and are the least likely to drive while impaired, their abilities may be affected by decline in vision, hearing, cognitive function, physical changes and the effects of medications. 

A new survey of 1,000 seniors aged 75 or older from Liberty Mutual Insurance, found that 78 percent who said they drive regularly admitted to declining physical abilities.  Sixteen percent said they tired easily or had slow reaction times, 13 percent said they had trouble seeing or hearing, and nine percent reported getting lost and even feeling confused.  It’s no wonder that seniors are worried about their driving skills and maintaining their driver’s license.  Sixty-four percent feared losing their independence, 47 percent worried that being unable to drive would cause them to be less active,  45 percent were concerned that not driving would lead them to feeling isolated, while 45 percent also worried about the logistics of their transportation needs should they give up driving.

Interestingly, eighty-four percent of seniors surveyed by Liberty Mutual said they would be open to conversations about how much they should or shouldn’t be driving, but only 6 percent said they’ve actually had that kind of discussion with a relative, loved one or doctor.

If a person’s continued fitness to drive is in doubt by others, their concerns can usually be reported, confidentially, to the states licensing agency.  States typically have medical review boards composed of health care professionals who advise on licensing standards, and on individual cases in which a person’s ability to drive safely is in doubt.  After reviewing a person’s fitness to drive, the agency may allow the person to continue driving as previously instated, refuse to renew the license, suspend the license, or restrict the license.  Typical restrictions may include prohibiting of nighttime driving, requiring additional mirrors on the vehicle, or limiting driving to specified places, or a limited radius from the driver’s home.

Most states have a regular renewal period for all drivers that range from 4 to 10 years, with the exception of Arizona, where all drivers’ licenses are valid until the age of 65.  About half of the States require older drivers to renew their license more frequently, usually every 2 to 5 years.  Where the renewal cycle is not shorter for older drivers, licensing agencies have the authority to shorten the renewal cycle for individual license holders if their condition warrants.  The age at which more frequent renewals is required varies anywhere from 60 years old to 85 years old.

Identifying challenges that senior drivers face is the first step toward driving as long, and as safely possible.  AAA has a website dedicated to senior drivers at, where you can research licensing laws for your state, find refresher course classes, get feedback on how certain medications can effect driving, and how your choice of vehicle fits your abilities.  This website also has resources for Family and Friends to help keep seniors safe when it comes to driving.

Sources:; National Conference of State Legislature/Traffic Safety Trends: State Legislative Action 2012;;

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