In 2015, there were more than 40 million licensed drivers age 65 and older in the U.S. Sadly, more than 6800 seniors were killed and several hundred thousand injured in car accidents that year.

How Advancing Age Places Those Behind the Wheel and On the Road at Risk

In comparison with other age groups, studies prove that senior drivers are more likely to wear a seatbelt, abstain from driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and obey posted speed limits. And yet, other than teen drivers, they are more likely to be killed or injured in a crash. Even with the additional years of driving experience and road familiarity, it’s age-related illnesses, and age itself, that makes trauma, such as a serious injury in an auto accident, more difficult to overcome. Recently, there have been several studies looking at new and emerging car technology and how that technology impacts those seniors who want to continue driving and living independently.

Millions of Seniors Drive Across the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, there were more than 40 million licensed U.S. drivers age 65 and older. That same year though, more than 6800 seniors died in car crashes while several hundred thousand received injuries.

According to the American Automobile Association, senior drivers today are outliving their ability to drive safely; age-related confusion, adverse reactions to medications, and a lack of ability to react quickly to dangerous situations all play a factor in senior-related accidents. Ongoing research shows that new and emerging vehicle technology may be the key to keeping senior drivers safe and allowing those who can drive to continue even as they age.

Research Highlights the Best Tech for Elderly Drivers

For the past several years, several federal agencies, along with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) have been researching older drivers and vehicle technology. Experts have been ranking the latest in automotive technology when it comes to senior drivers and safety and, since 2012, have identified ten features that they say benefit mature drivers. Among a few safety systems highlighted are:

  • Smart headlights
  • Emergency Response
  • Reverse Monitoring
  • Blind spot warning
  • Lane Departure warning system
  • Vehicle stability control
  • Drowsy Driver Alert

As of 2013, more than half of senior drivers questioned said they would feel safer if their vehicle had the latest in automotive technology.  As of 2015, nearly 100 percent of elder drivers questioned said they would be willing to buy a car with at least one of the newest technologies installed. When listing safety features, an overwhelming majority of drivers age 50+ said a blind spot warning system was the most important feature; crash mitigation systems came in second. And not far behind was the lane departure warning and smart headlights. So, while younger drivers may think all the newest technology is geared toward them, older drivers are just as enthused about all the safety advances available.

Technology Is Great to Help Senior Drivers, but In-Person License Renewal Just As Important

While technology can greatly improve driver safety, there is something that can’t be overlooked when it comes to senior drivers, and that is the ability to operate a vehicle safely. In Colorado, once a driver reaches age 60, he or she must renew their license every five years in person, so their overall ability can be determined. Most seniors who renew their license will be asked to take a basic vision test.

Other age-related issues authorities look for when testing seniors include memory, coordination issues, and flexibility. In some instances, officials will determine that a senior driver is no longer safe behind the wheel and their license can be revoked or suspended. In other cases, older drivers may have to undergo a refresher driving course to maintain a license. While authorities hope all citizens who want to drive and maintain their independence can do so, they must also look out for the safety of everyone on the road.

So, if you have a senior family member who you suspect is having some difficulties, having a newer car with updated technology can help. However, don’t overlook the obvious and that is, at some point, it just may not be safe for your loved one to get behind the wheel.

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