Driving in old age – what speaks for and against it?

A senior couple are traveling by car

Safe on the road

Seniors who drive into old age are a hot topic. Younger drivers are concerned about road safety, while seniors are concerned about their mobility and self-determination. Should seniors leave the car behind after a certain age??

Seniors want to continue driving

The driver’s license knows no age limit. Drivers of over 75 years are no longer rare. Seniors find it difficult to give up their vehicles, because driving a car in old age enables seniors to live independently.

A weekend trip to the supermarket, a car ride to the doctor’s office or to the pharmacy on the other side of town – that’s a quality of life you don’t want to miss, even at the age of 80. Then people forget that their bodies have limits.

Statistics on the daily activities of senior citizens

27 percent of 65- to 85-year-olds surveyed said they spend time with their family every day.

Older people find it difficult to recognize their own deficits. "my eyes are still good, i can hear perfectly, my neck doesn’t cause any problems when i look back": seniors often judge their abilities too positively, tend to overestimate themselves and classify themselves as above-average drivers compared to their age group. After all, even as an older person, you still want to be taken seriously in a society where youth, performance and mobility count for so much.

Thanks to demographic change, a generally better state of health and a high level of car availability, the number of seniors who drive will continue to rise. The "baby boomers" are coming of age, and with them a generation that has driven all their lives and will continue to do so.

Fitness to drive test in other EU countries

in 2013, the european driving license was reformed. It is no longer valid for life. Driver’s licenses must be reapplied for every 15 years. Old licenses issued before 2013 must be replaced by a new EU driver’s license by 2033. However, the EU has given its member states the option of making regular health or fitness for driving tests a requirement for the driver’s license.

And so in some EU countries, such as the netherlands and portugal, there are regular checks for seniors, while in others, such as germany, there are not. Around 59 million driving license holders would be affected by a health check in germany. Of these, over 16 million drivers are seniors over the age of 65, who would have to undergo a test in order to continue driving in old age.

Are senior citizens who drive a car a traffic risk??

Accident message on a rear window of a car

carelessness is often the cause of car accidents among seniors.

But are older drivers really a risk and do they need a comprehensive test for driving in old age?? Should driving privileges be restricted as they age? What about mandatory testing for seniors who drive? A look at the accident statistics shows that sweeping claims can hardly be supported by this.

In 2015, a total of 210.000 traffic accidents with personal injury caused by car drivers. However, every fifth car driver who was at fault in an accident was between 18 and 24 years of age. Only one in thirteen of those responsible for accidents fell into the category of senior citizens.

In general, however, the risk of having an accident while driving increases significantly for seniors over the age of 75, according to studies by the German Federal Statistical Office. For drivers in their late 70s, the general risk of an accident is twice as high as for drivers between 30 and 60 years of age; at the end of their 80s, the risk of an accident is comparable to that of novice drivers, according to the german traffic watch (deutsche verkehrswacht).

"everything gets a little less with age," complain many seniors. The fact is that aging is inevitably accompanied by certain functional impairments, and this also has an impact on road traffic. Sight, hearing and reactions – important parameters for driving – decrease with age. At least for a while, the impairments can be compensated for with an adapted driving style. They begin to avoid unfamiliar routes and driving in the dark, do not drive at peak traffic times or leave the car parked in snow and rain.

Generally, seniors are more cautious when driving a car. Older people are rarely noticed for speeding and tailgating. More frequent crashes in situations such as turning, reversing, and parking. So it’s not so much carelessness or lack of common sense that leads to accidents, but rather limitations in the ability to absorb and process information in complex situations.

What’s in favor – what’s against when seniors drive a car?

Opinions differ on the question: should seniors leave the car at a certain age and no longer drive??

Statistics: Should the driving ability of seniors be checked

Around 70 percent of those surveyed were in favor of conducting tests for senior citizens’ fitness to drive a car.

What are the arguments against driving in old age??

Aging is a gradual process. Senses such as sight and hearing start to deteriorate at the age of 50. Driving becomes critical for people with a disease in particular – regardless of age.

Another problem is that many drivers are unable to assess their own fitness to drive. That’s why it’s important for seniors to be tested for their fitness to drive: a test detects a lack of perception and ability to react, as well as impaired mobility, which otherwise becomes a danger for all road users.

checklist bicycle check

Why seniors should continue to drive?

According to the German Automobile Association (ADAC), it is not age but the driver’s state of health that is decisive for accident-free participation in road traffic. Age alone does not make a bad driver. This is why senior citizens who drive cannot be denied their driving ability across the board. They often have enough experience to drive with foresight and to adapt their driving style to the respective traffic situation. According to the ADAC, one argument against a test to determine whether a person is still able to drive, as is the case in other european countries, is that the methods developed to date are not sufficiently conclusive.

In addition, a positive test result may lead seniors to overestimate their own driving abilities. Therefore, the ADAC advises: seniors should voluntarily undergo a medical test to determine their fitness to drive. Tips are also that in old age, health deficits in driving can be partially compensated for by driving assistance systems such as a parking aid. It is also advisable to have a check-up by a doctor at least once a year.

It is important that the independence of seniors is maintained by driving a car: since public transport is not always well developed, especially in rural areas, the car also means a loss of independence and social contacts in old age. Switching to a bicycle is at least not a safe alternative: almost every second cyclist involved in an accident is 65 or older.

Taking a voluntary test to drive at an older age

Despite all the pros and cons, the demand for mandatory examinations for seniors is also still being voiced by insurers. Accident research by insurers is therefore calling for mandatory health checks and driving accompanied by a specially trained driving instructor for all seniors over the age of 75. Senior citizens are often surprised by their deficits in driving on the road during such tests, he says.

But such tests are not in sight. In the end, there is always an appeal to the common sense of the individual. When driving is no longer possible in old age, the best tip is still to hand in your driver’s license in good time.

TuV offers voluntary, fee-based performance tests for older road users. But as long as the topic of driving safety in old age is treated stepmotherly, the willingness to get tested early is also reduced. Especially if it costs something. the ideal would be a concerted action: the insurances should give discounts if someone wants to be checked for driving ability and the doctor is entitled to a fee for an appropriate consultation of his elderly patients. Getting checked out on your own responsibility must become a matter of course.

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