GLEN BURNIE, Md. (December 3, 2019) – Maryland has nearly 4.5 million licensed drivers, and among them is a rapidly growing older population. As we age, changes in physical, cognitive and sensory skills can impact a person’s ability to drive. During Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, from December 2 through 6, the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) is reminding older drivers that there are a variety of options to make getting behind the wheel safer for them and other road users.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that all drivers remain safe on the road for as long as possible,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative.
Older Driver Safety Awareness Week promotes the importance of mobility and transportation options for older adults and emphasizes the importance of recognizing changes in driving abilities and understanding risk factors. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the risk of sustaining a serious injury in a crash increases as people age. For example, a 55-year-old female has about a 10 percent risk of injury in a frontal crash at a speed of 31 miles per hour, while an 80-year-old female has a 40 percent risk of injury in the same crash.
The following tips can help older adults avoid crashes and ensure they are prepared for any driving situation:
- Avoid driving in severe weather.
- Schedule regular vision and hearing tests.
- See a doctor if pain, stiffness, or arthritis seem to get in the way of driving.
- If possible, drive a car with automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, and large mirrors.
- Wear protective eyewear when necessary. It takes a 55-year-old person eight times longer to recover from sun glare compared to a 16-year-old.
- Talk with a medical provider to ask how medications may affect driving ability.
- Take a refresher course online or with a driving school licensed by MDOT MVA.
- Make sure your car is winter ready – check fluids, lights and systems before the season begins.
- Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
- Assemble emergency kits for your home and car. A list of items can be found at ready.gov/car.
Older drivers are encouraged to explore programs that ensure a car’s safety features are properly adjusted to the driver’s needs. CarFit is a free program to educate drivers on how they can be safest in their car – including the proper adjustment of seat belts, airbag safety, reducing blind spots and safe driving habits. To find a CarFit event, visit car-fit.org/carfit/RegisterCarFit. In addition, the National Safety Council’s MyCarDoesWhat.org website provides resources to educate drivers on the ever-changing world of car safety features.
MDOT MVA produces a Resource Guide for Aging Drivers that provides detailed information and easy-to-use tools for customers to learn more about aging, health and driving. To download the resource guide, go to bit.ly/35ZEOR7. If you or a loved one begins to recognize the warning signs for diminished driving capacity, contact an occupational therapist or a driver rehabilitation specialist to get information, advice and to learn about other transportation options to stay mobile in the community. MDOT MVA’s Resource Guide for Aging Drivers provides a list of Maryland Driver Rehabilitation Programs.
“A driver’s age is not the only predictor of driving ability, as changes can happen at any age, but the number of crashes involving drivers aged 65 and older has steadily increased over the past decade,” said Administrator Nizer. “All drivers should be aware of potential risks, know how to manage them and know where to find helpful resources.”
For more information on Older Driver Safety Week, visit aota.org/Conference-Events/Older-Driver-Safety-Awareness-Week.aspx.
Governor Larry Hogan has also proclaimed December 2-8 as Maryland Winter Safety Week, serving as a reminder to senior citizens and all Marylanders to prepare for winter weather on the road and at their homes.