To help senior drivers face the challenges of aging safely, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) joins the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) in recognizing December 2-6 as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.
The AOTA hopes to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation to ensure older adults remain active in the community – shopping, working, or volunteering – with the confidence that transportation will not be the barrier to strand them at home.
“The ability to drive encompasses a person’s knowledge and experience, along with visual, physical, and mental capabilities,” CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said. “While knowledge and experience may continue to increase, older drivers must adapt to changes in their capabilities to remain safe, responsible drivers.”
California currently has more than 27 million licensed drivers and more than 4.5 million of them, 17 percent, are 65 or older. Preliminary data from the CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System shows that in 2018, 558 drivers 65 or older were in fatal collisions, with 297 at fault. Of all California drivers killed in collisions each year, approximately 15 percent are 65 or older.
Driving is a complex activity that requires certain physical, visual, and cognitive abilities. As people age, those abilities often change in subtle ways. A driver’s chronological age is not a good predictor of driving ability. What counts on the road is performance. Having a series of minor crashes or near misses, getting lost on familiar roads, and being spoken to about driving by police, family, and friends are a few signs of diminished capacity for safe driving.
The CHP supports older drivers with its free, two-hour Age Well, Drive Smart course. Through this program, seniors can sharpen their driving skills, refresh their knowledge of the rules of the road, and learn how to adjust to normal age-related physical and mental changes. Information is available at CHP Area offices or at www.chp.ca.gov/programs-services.