Weeklong initiative offers resources and raises awareness for New York’s older drivers
The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) recognizes Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, which takes place this year from Dec. 2-6. The weeklong annual awareness campaign promotes understanding of the importance mobility and transportation are to ensuring older adults remain connected to their communities.
“For most New Yorkers, driving is an essential part of staying connected to our communities – visiting family and friends, and getting to work, the supermarket, pharmacy, and the doctor’s office, among others – so it is important for older drivers and their caregivers to develop an action plan to help ensure they stay safe behind the wheel,” Acting Director Greg Olsen said. “New York recognizes that transportation access is critical – it enables older adults to stay connected to the vital community resources they need to remain healthy and engaged, and furthers our commitment as the first age-friendly state in the nation.”
There are currently 4.3 million older adults in New York. That number is expected to increase to 5.3 million over the next decade. As the older population grows, so, too, will the number of older drivers on the road.
Older adults, as a group, are among the safest drivers on the roads. Drivers over age 55 are involved in fewer crashes, and per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are more likely to observe safer driving behaviors. However, older drivers are also more likely to be killed or injured in traffic crashes due to age-related vulnerabilities, such as more fragile bones, prescription medication use, and chronic medical conditions. Except for teen drivers, older drivers have the highest crash death rate per mile driven, even though they drive fewer miles than younger people.
The Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research data shows older drivers were involved in 190 fatal crashes in 2018. Preliminary data indicate that number has dropped to 118 fatal crashes in 2019. This 38% decline illustrates the importance of encouraging ongoing traffic safety for older drivers.
In 2015, NYSOFA and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee launched the Safe Driving Tips for Older New Yorkers website to promote older driver safety. The site encourages the use of online and in-person safety training and car safety check programs; provides information to help older drivers understand options for roadway safety; and offers a user-friendly guide about preventing adverse drug interactions that can affect one’s ability to drive.
Older drivers are also encouraged to contact NY Connects at 800-342-9871 to learn about transportation alternatives in their communities.
Other valuable resources for older drivers and caregivers:
•Throughout Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, the American Occupational Therapy Association brings attention to a different aspect of older driver safety, including offering tips on anticipating changes that can affect driving, family conversations, screening and evaluations, and interventions that can empower older drivers and help them remain engaged in their communities.
•“Are You Concerned about an Older Driver?” – NYSOFA’s guide for families facing the dilemma of what to do when an aging driver is at risk.
•Roadwise Rx – This online tool helps determine if prescription drugs are affecting one’s driving abilities. Individuals can enter the names of medications and find out if and how side effects could affect driving safety. Information is completely confidential and cannot be viewed by any other party.
•The Department of Motor Vehicles' Older Driver Resources web page provides information about driving skills and programs, health tips, license FAQs, vehicle safety tips, and more.
•CarFit is an educational program that provides older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them, as well as information and materials on community-specific resources.
For more information, visit www.aging.ny.gov.