Vehicle modifications and the “right fit” can help protect aging drivers

two women in car. An older woman driver with a younger woman.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, drivers age 65 and older accounted for 18% of all traffic fatalities, higher rates of fatal crashes, based on miles driven, than any other group except young drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 40.1 million licensed older drivers in 2015 — a 33% jump from 10 years earlier. To understand how remarkable that spike is, consider that the general population of drivers only increased by 8% in the same time.

Older drivers are often very safe drivers: more likely to wear seat belts, less likely to speed and less likely to drink and drive. But when involved in accidents, they are generally more fragile than younger drivers and more susceptible to serious injuries. The good news is that there are ways for cars to be adapted and to help older drivers reduce their risk of injury during a crash.

CarFit is a free educational program created by the American Society on Aging and developed in collaboration with AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association. It offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them, and it provides information and materials on community-specific resources to enhance their safety as drivers and increase their mobility in the community. CarFit offers local events, but if there are none scheduled near you, they also offer tools, videos, information and resources.

You can download a helpful Carfit brochure (PDF) with tips to find the right fit and ways that cars can be adapted. An article from AARP talks more about Carfit, offering an excellent video that shows the checklist used to help get the right fit for older drivers.

Other resources to help older drivers

The American Occupational Therapy Association has a variety of tools and resources related to driving and mobility for seniors. You can also search a database to locate a Driver Specialist for driver evaluations or Drive Safe and Adaptive Driving programs near you.

The Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety or CHORUS – search for older driver resources by state.

State Drivers License Renewal Laws Including Requirements For Older Drivers – scroll to see a chart that summarizes laws related to age by state.