Is your state safe for an aging loved one to drive around?

Many caregivers face a conundrum when it comes to an aging parent’s ability to drive – or lack thereof. On the one hand, driving is one of the greatest signs of freedom and independence there is, regardless of age. Accordingly, it is one of the last shreds of independence an older adult is willing to surrender. On the other hand, sometimes there simply is no other way around it than to have Dan Aykroyd hire Morgan Freeman to drive Jessica Tandy around. Seems harsh, but that’s just the reality of it.

While caregivers everywhere should keep tabs on their elderly loved one’s driving, denizens of the following 10 states could use some extra caution (according to Caring.com):

Top 10 most dangerous states for elderly drivers

State

% of people killed in car crashes aged 65 or older

% of the population aged 65 or older

Delaware

22

16

Washington

20

14

New Jersey

21

15

Hawaii

23

16

Pennsylvania

24

17

Idaho

22

14

New York

23

15

Minnesota

23

14

Maine

27

18

Rhode Island

35

16

 

The list was compiled with data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau from the year 2014. “Nationwide, suburban areas have struggled with aging populations – they’re trying to adapt an old infrastructure to the new normal of a graying population,” expert on land use, urban planning and development Richard Murdocco, M.A. told Caring.com. Elderly individuals often have to drive around suburban areas where there are no mass transportation options or an infrastructure that is friendly to pedestrians. Lenient driving laws for senior citizens also seemed to play a part. For example, over 50% of the above-listed states are among 19 states which do not enforce stricter driving rules for older people.

Interestingly, the CDC says that “increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers” contribute more to fatal crashes than “an increased tendency to get into crashes.” Which means that a medical checkup and not the taking the car keys away immediately might be the caregiver’s first preemptive measure. Additionally, declining vision and cognitive functioning, and physical changes resulting from the aging process can also affect the ability to drive. Driving-related injuries and deaths in older adults may be prevented thus:

·         Using seatbelts.

·         Driving under safe conditions; i.e., during daylight and in good weather.     

·         Not driving under the influence.

·         Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility.

·         Asking a doctor or pharmacist to review prescription and over-the counter medications to reduce side effects and interactions.

·         Having eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year.

·         Wearing glasses and corrective lenses as required.

·         Finding the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.

·         Planning the route before driving.

·         Leaving a large following distance behind the car in front.

·         Avoiding distractions such as listening to a loud radio, talking on a cell phone, texting, and eating.

·         Considering potential alternatives, like riding with a friend or using public transit (if available).

Related: How to tell when to get your aging parent to stop driving