Agency Providing Resources to Ensure Older Drivers Continue to Drive Safely
Glen Burnie, MD - Nov. 30, 2023 – The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration is highlighting tips and resources for older drivers and their families as part of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, Monday, December 4, through Friday, December 8, to empower those who can drive safely to continue to do so.
Aging impacts everyone’s confidence to be safe behind the wheel. Each decade brings changes to an individual’s physical, mental and sensory abilities that can challenge one’s driving abilities. Yet for many drivers aged 65 and older, having a driver’s license means freedom and the ability to stay engaged in their community. As the number of older drivers continues to rise in Maryland, it is important to recognize age-related changes and seek supportive resources to maintain a safe road network.
“The MVA is committed to ensuring older drivers can continue to travel safely in their communities. While personal independence is vital, it’s also important for motorists of all ages to support safe driving practices to protect themselves and others,” said Motor Vehicle Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Wes Moore’s Highway Safety Representative. “As drivers get older, continuing education and awareness is key to learning new strategies to help ensure safe mobility. This includes understanding existing vehicle features and using them properly, demonstrating safe driving skills, and learning ways to identify changes early.”
Awareness of Common Crash Scenarios
Understanding common crash scenarios can help older drivers avoid such situations. Common crashes among older drivers include situations involving left turns at intersection with a stop sign or light with no dedicated left turn arrow; yielding or merging with traffic at high speeds; and changing lanes on a roadway with four or more lanes. The Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office offers these tips:
- Always wear a seat belt and make sure all passengers in all seats are belted.
- Use caution when turning. Judging oncoming traffic can be challenging at intersections and when making left-hand turns.
- Allow enough time when crossing traffic and pay attention to signs and signals.
- Use caution when merging onto higher speed roads and when changing lanes.
- Be extra careful at intersections. Use turn signals and stay alert for cars and pedestrians entering from the side.
- Always stay in your lane while driving through an intersection.
- Avoid distractions so you can make safe driving decisions.
- Drive at or near the speed limit. It’s unsafe to drive too fast or too slow.
- Be aware of the risks of drowsy driving from exhaustion, changes in medications or certain medical conditions. Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as impaired driving.
Health Impacts & Actions
Vision, physical health, cognitive health and medications can have an impact on driving ability, regardless of age. Health issues can affect a person’s ability to recognize hazardous situations, react quickly to changing conditions and the ability to focus on more than one task – as usually required when driving.
If you or a loved one begins to recognize the warning signs for diminished driving capacity, have conversations with family, friends and your health care provider. Contact an occupational therapist or a driver rehabilitation specialist to get advice and to learn about other transportation options to stay mobile in the community. The Motor Vehicle Administration produces a Resource Guide for Aging Drivers that offers detailed information and easy-to-use tools for customers to learn more about aging, health and driving. Stay aware of changes on the roadways, and driving habits, by taking advantage of the many driver refresher courses and self-assessments available.
The Right Fit
Staying safe on the road takes a multi-faceted approach that starts with the proper fit and understanding of safety features within a vehicle. Today’s vehicles are equipped with many safety features that can be intimidating and difficult to understand. CarFit, created by the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Automobile Association and AARP, is a program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them, and provides vital information and materials on community-specific resources that could enhance their driving safety, and/or increase their mobility in the community.
A proper fit can increase driver safety. For instance, sitting too close to the steering wheel, which houses the airbag, can cause serious injury. Also, good foot positioning is important. A driver reaching with his or her toes to press the pedals can cause fatigue leading to slow reaction times. Additionally, knowing how to properly adjust side mirrors can minimize blind spots while changing lanes.
MyCarDoesWhat.org is another resource through the National Safety Council that educates drivers on the ever-changing world of car safety features, including Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. Things like adaptive cruise control, back-up cameras and warnings, blind spot detection and brake assist are all features than can keep you safe on the road. In-vehicle display icons for these features can be confusing to drivers but the MyCarDoesWhat website provides pictures for each symbol and what technology it represents.
“Safe driving can be a challenge for drivers of any age, and being proactive about changes to our transportation needs as we age can ensure we are safely navigating the roads. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is an opportunity to highlight all the available resources the Motor Vehicle Administration has to offer to help keep all drivers healthy, safe, independent and confident when they’re behind the wheel,” Administrator Nizer said