Family members and caregivers who understand older driver safety issues can help keep senior loved ones safe. Today's older adults continue to drive into their later years -- and for more miles than in the past. Research suggests that older adults can expect to outlive their ability to drive safely by seven to 10 years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older drivers tend to be more cautious, safer drivers and are less likely to cause accidents, but they are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a crash. There are steps that family and caregivers can take help an older driver stay safe when they drive, and that can help them understand when age or ability gets in the way of safe driving.
Here are a few common questions asked by families and caregivers:
What are the key indicators that an older adult may no longer be safe to drive? What can I do about it?
The natural process of aging can affect an older adult's vision, hearing, reaction time and cognition -- and may affect driving proficiency. For example, eyes may recover from glare more slowly, causing temporary blind spots, and may have trouble focusing on nearby objects, such as a vehicle's instrument panel. The loss of hearing acuity may result in difficulty hearing sirens, horns and other warnings. Older adults may lose mobility in their necks and backs, making it harder to look over their shoulders to safely merge or change lanes. As people age, they may perceive sensory data more slowly, making it difficult to comply with traffic signals or recognize the actions of other vehicles. There are several checklists of warning signs and indicators that may be used to determine if an older adult should stop driving, including:
Assessments are also available to help determine if improvements need to be made to an older adult's vehicle or driving skills. AARP offers an online safe-driving course
that can help drivers become more aware of physical changes related to age, and to help update driving skills. Taking the AARP class
also qualifies drivers for a discount on car insurance.
If a doctor is unable to rule someone as unfit to drive, an on-the-road test administered by an occupational therapist is one of the best ways to determine true ability. For a referral to an occupational therapist, please ask your physician for a referral or visit the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City website
What can I do to ensure an older adult stays safe when driving?
A car's amenities can make a big difference in safe driving. Some older adult drivers choose to buy a car that will fit their needs better as they age, or they may choose to install equipment in their current car to help improve their driving.
There are also ways to adjust a car to better fit the needs of an older driver, such as adding a seat-back cushion to improve the driver's view or hand controls for those with limited mobility. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has resources on how to adapt a vehicle for safer driving. You can find that information here
For more information on how to adjust a car for the changing needs of an older driver, CarFit is an educational program that shows older adult drivers how to check the "fit" of their vehicle. This program also provides information and materials to enhance their safety as drivers and increase their mobility. The CarFit website offers videos
that explain how to make necessary adjustments. CarFit also offers events where trained technicians work with an individual to fit their vehicle properly for maximum comfort and safety. A CarFit check takes approximately 20 minutes. For more information or to find a CarFit event in your area, please visit the CarFit website.
To help improve driving skills, the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City's Senior Services program offers individual driving evaluations, vision evaluations and treatment for vision deficits, as well as many other services that may help improve driving skills and quality of life. For more information, visit the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City's website
Do I need to report someone that I think is unfit to drive? If so, to whom do I report it?
According to the Missouri Department of Revenue, if you think an individual is unfit to drive, you should submit a Driver Condition Report (Form 4319). After completing this form, you must mail it to the Missouri Department of Revenue. In this report, you must identify the driver with name, date of birth, driver's license number, current address and license plate number for the vehicle being operated. You must also provide as many details as possible as to how the driver is unsafe, as well as the condition of the driver. To access the form, please visit the Missouri Department of Revenue's website
To report an unsafe driver in Kansas, please call the Kansas Department of Revenue at 785-296-3601 to make an official report. To make an accurate report, you'll need information on both the driver and the car. Please visit the Kansas Department of Revenue website
for more information on driving safety.
For other information on reporting unsafe drivers, please click here
What are the options for older adults who are no longer able to drive safely?
The options for non-drivers in Kansas City depend on the specific destination or time constraint. Kansas City, Missouri, Independence, Missouri, the Unified Government of Kansas City and Wyandotte County, Kansas, and Johnson County, Kansas, provide bus services that cover much of the Kansas City region, but times and destinations may be limited. The bus services offer assistance for disabled individuals, as well as discounted bus passes for those 65 and older. For information on regional bus services, click one of the links below.
There are several alternatives to driving in Kansas City that were specifically created for older adults and non-drivers. Options available in the Kansas City region include public transportation, para-transit, senior shuttles, walking, friends and family, taxis, volunteer driver programs, etc.
Link for Care
is a website that helps individuals find services including transportation, health care, food services, care giving and more. The resources at the Link for Care websit
e can be searched by city or by neighborhood.
If it's time for you or someone you know to stop driving, consider donating your car. Here are some resources to help:
Find more by Googling "donate car in Kansas City."
The Older Adult Driver and Pedestrian Safety section of the KC Communities for All Ages web pages was made available through Community AGEnda: Improving America for All Ages grant sponsored by the Pfizer Foundation and Grantmakers In Aging, with local funding through the Jewish Heritage Foundation and WJ Brace Charitable Trust, Bank of America, Trustee.