Five Resources for Older Drivers and Options for When It’s Time to Stop Driving
When people think of December, they think of holiday shopping, winter vacations, and the cold weather rolling in. They often overlook that it’s also Older Driver Safety Month. This is a time when many organizations, including local governments, AARP, non-profits and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) lead the charge on educating the public about Older Driver Safety.
The aim of Older Driver Safety Month is to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation for senior Americans. For many older adults, transportation is a determining factor as to whether they remain active in the community. Their inability to drive or access other modes of transportation can be major barriers to staying healthy, seeing friends and family, and avoiding being stranded at home.
Importance of Older Driver Safety Programs
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are more than 45 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older in the United States. Unfortunately, drivers over the age of 75 have a higher crash death rate per mile driven than middle-aged drivers (aged 35-54). According to a 2018 CDC report, more than 250,000 senior adults were treated in emergency departments for crash-related injuries.
The significance is noticeable. As we age, our ability to see, hear and remember directions decreases, as does our reaction time. This is true despite older adults being more likely than younger drivers to practice safe behaviors like wearing a seat belt, driving under the speed limit, and driving when conditions are safest.
Older Driver Safety Month helps to bring attention to programs that can help senior drivers year-round. For instance, on the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety site, there is a page for Older Driver Safety Programs. These include training programs, like CarFit, a program that helps seniors adjust the options in their car so they’re at their safest. The Governor’s office also partners with the Georgia Department of Driver Services (GDDS) to educate seniors on the licensing and vision requirements for drivers aged 64 and older. Inside the government, the Georgia Older Driver’s Task Force is working with the State’s traffic engineers and driver education specialists to help make the roads safer for older drivers.
Five Resources for Older Drivers
In addition to government resources, there are many sites and organizations that offer resources for senior drivers.
- The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) has a list of services and programs that their Certified Driver Rehab Specialist (CDRS) can provide. A CDRS is a professional who plans, develops, coordinates, and implements driving services for individuals with disabilities. These professionals are typically allied health personnel, driving instructors and others who have specialized in making the roads safer for drivers with disabilities, their passengers, and other drivers. The directory of these professionals is on the ADED Site.
- The CDC publishes a MyMobility Plan that they promote during the month. In the plan, they tell older adults to make a list of all their usual travel habits. Seniors are then directed to write down how they currently get to places now, and then how they will make their way to those places in the future. Just as older adults need a financial plan to make sure they’ll have care in the future, they also should think forward and plan for when they can no longer transport themselves safely.
- Triple A (AAA) also has digital resources for older drivers. Their RoadWise Driver program is an online course that teaches defensive driving and how older drivers can adjust to age-related physical changes. They also have a driving evaluation tool, a list of senior licensing laws and their own Older Driver Mobility Plan.
- As with many topics concerning elder adults, AARP is a great source of knowledge. They have a special site that offers evaluations, listings for live classes, and educational articles. Their unique content includes “finding the best seat and wheel position for safety” and “technologies that can make senior drivers safer on the road.”
- The Hartford website, “safe driving for a lifetime.” has articles on everything from tips for family conversations about driving, to exercises seniors can do to help them stay safe in the driver’s seat. They also have downloadable booklets and kits to keep senior drivers safe and on other subjects, such as ways seniors can remodel their home to stay comfortable and safe
Four Excellent Transportation Alternatives to Driving
Older Driver Safety Month promotes alternative modes of transportation (i.e. not just driving a car) as a means of staying mobile and independent. In Metro Atlanta, there are a number of recommended ways to get around:
- Senior Call-And-Ride Programs—AgeWell Atlanta and other organizations that are dedicated to seniors also offer Call-And-Ride services. AgeWell Atlanta’s Senior Transportation, through JF&CS, helps elderly adults get to doctor’s appointments and important events. AgeWell Atlanta works with Lyft to manage rides for seniors by phone. This can be a huge benefit to those that don’t use the app. AgeWell through JF&CS works to ensure older adults with wheelchairs, walkers and canes safely get to their destinations.
- Home Aide/Driver – There are many companies that provide private services that can help transport seniors as well as help them with navigating their destination safely. Home aide services usually start around $20-25 an hour.
- Uber/Lyft/Taxis –. Though the rideshares depend on apps that might be tricky to operate, taxis are available by app or phone.
- Public Transportation—This is an option especially for seniors who live “inside the perimeter,” but can be difficult if an elderly adult has limited mobility or vision impairment. MARTA does offer reduced fares for eligible senior citizens and their caretakers to ride their busses and trains. MARTA Paratransit also services individuals who have physical or cognitive difficulties. Unlike Lyft and Uber, MARTA Paratransit vans can accommodate older and disabled adults who need wheelchair lifts.
Older Driver Safety Month is an example of Georgia and the nation’s commitment to keeping our roads safer and elder adults as mobile and independent as possible…for as long as possible. Through in-person and online resources as well as alternate transportation, December can be a fun and safe time of the year for all of Atlanta’s seniors.