December 5-9 is the national observance of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) recommends older drivers and their families take time to talk about individual challenges and limitations of driving. The goal is to help older drivers live life to the fullest by keeping them active, healthy and safe in their communities.
Despite being more likely to wear a seat belt, drivers ages 65 and older in Georgia have the highest fatality crash rate of any age group. As individuals grow older, vision, memory, strength, flexibility, and reaction time tend to decline contributing to higher risk of crash. In addition, medications and health conditions can affect driving ability. Increased physical frailty creates a greater risk of death in a crash.
Each day of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week will bring attention to a different aspect of older driver safety. The week is designed to start conversations that promote understanding and awareness of the importance of older adults’ safe driving, mobility and transportation, and ways to remain active in the community.
Monday: Anticipating Changes That Can Affect Driving
- Proactive, early planning is paramount to continued independence and safety.
- Tuesday: Family Conversations Family and friends play a major role in discussions about older driver safety, and it is better to start the conversation early, before a crisis or accident.
- Wednesday: Screening and Evaluations with an Occupational Therapist An older driver may decide that it is time to get a checkup on his or her driving fitness.
- Thursday: Interventions That Can Empower Drivers: The goal of intervention is to explore ways for individuals to drive safely for as long as possible.
- Friday: Staying Engaged in the Community: Older drivers and their families need to know about resources for independent community mobility before driving cessation occurs.
“Making the decision to stop driving, limiting the amount of driving, or changing the way one drives does not have to mean losing independence,” said Elizabeth Head, DPH older driver program coordinator. “There are transportation options to help older adults maintain mobility while keeping them safe.”
DPH has partnered with other public and private organizations to create the Older Driver Safety Program. Funded by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the program utilizes a public health approach to develop collaborative relationships to provide on-going education about safe driving skills, certified driver safety courses, driving assessments and alternative forms of transportation. Prevention strategies that maintain the safety of older drivers benefit everyone.