Age equals wisdom, experience, and caution in almost every area of life including driving habits. Although many people dread finding themselves behind an older driver without a passing zone in sight, this is actually the safest place on the road.
According to both the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers in the 64- to 69-year-old age group are the safest drivers. Still believe that a few gray hairs should automatically revoke a driver’s license? Here are a few more reasons why you couldn’t be more wrong.
7 Reasons Seniors Are Clearly the Best Drivers
- You Can Teach an Old Dog New Driving Skills. It seems that older drivers are getting better with, well, age. According to a study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, both the accident rate and the fatality rate for drivers older than 70 decreased significantly.
- Seniors Don’t Have a Cell Phone Glued to Their Ear. Haven’t you heard? Distracted driving is the new drunk driving. Forget about texting while driving – seniors are much less likely to even own a cell phone than any other age group.
- Seniors Are Tested Harder and More Often. Due to isolated incidents where seniors caused extreme accidents, some states have implemented stricter requirements on older drivers. Although the age varies to enter this program, most require seniors to renew their license more frequently and in person. The biggest changes have been made in Washington, DC. In the nation’s capital, drivers aged 70 or older must not only take the vision test but may have to take a reaction test. All of these applicants are required to turn in a statement from their doctor indicating they are both mentally and physically fit to drive. No other age group – teenagers included – is tested so rigorously in exchange for the privilege of driving. This should assure the general public that the seniors who are on the road are definitely safe to drive.
- No Screaming Baby On Board. When you spot a car with an older driver, who do you usually see in the passenger seat? Usually, it’s another senior, either a spouse or a friend. If a younger person is along for the ride, they generally take over control of the ship. Without screaming babies, fighting kids, or babbling teenagers, seniors have fewer distractions than any other age group.
- Seniors Can Skip Rush Hour. The most dangerous time of day to drive is during the middle of the night, but rush hour isn’t a picnic, either. Because few seniors are still working – or cruising the streets at midnight – they are much less likely to get in a serious accident.
- Seniors Hit the Early Bird Specials and Skip Happy Hour. No one’s saying that older people don’t still have a cocktail or two – in fact, alcohol abuse is a growing problem amongst the elderly. But seniors are more likely to drink at home or at a nearby friend’s house instead of bar-hopping.
- No One Blasts the Golden Oldies. It’s true that many people’s ability to hear fades with age, but who can hear a thing with a high-end stereo blasting those pounding bass tones until the windows shake? What seniors lack in hearing they make up for by turning their radio off or keeping it tuned to a soothing golden-oldies station at low to moderate volumes.
Seriously – Are Seniors Better Drivers?
If you ask a younger driver, they’ll definitely say no. Although seniors have the experience behind the wheel and pay close attention to driving, time is not on their side. Their hearing, sight, and reaction times are starting to diminish, and they can cause problems on the road including sudden stops and simply not seeing other cars.
There’s even scientific evidence to back this up. As people age, a certain part of the brain known as the middle temporal visual area, or MT, starts to change. When you’re young, the MT ignores background movement so that it can focus on movement in the foreground. This is the same ability that let ancient man focus on things he could eat – or things that could eat him – kind of an important function. As the brain ages, it loses the ability to distinguish between important and unimportant movements, so it takes longer to act.
The good news is that this can help researchers discover new ways to help older drivers. The bad news – it’ll eventually happen to all of us. Remember that next time you get impatient behind an older driver.
CONCLUSION: The truth is older drivers who are safe are really safe. On the flip side, if they’re dangerous, they’re really dangerous. Although many seniors will do the responsible thing and hand over the keys when it’s time, some won’t. Some are stubborn, but many are afraid to give up their independence. If you have someone you love who’s getting up there, keep a close eye on their driving habits and get ready to step in when they need help getting around.