Should There Be A Retirement Age For Senior Drivers?

senior woman driving

How old is “too old” to be driving? There’s discussion abound about putting a potential cap on the maximum age of motorists, and it’s not just politicians, doctors, truck accident lawyers (or other specialists) with an opinion — some seniors themselves wonder if there should be a “retirement age” on getting behind the wheel.

It’s a tough topic to broach. At least one study from AAA shows that roughly “83 percent of seniors who still had a driver’s license said they hadn’t spoken with any family member about their driving ability.” It’s still an important conversation to delve into, though, and today, we’re going to look at some of the facts when it comes to seniors and driving.

Seniors On The Roads

Unsurprisingly, older drivers are at a greater risk for death when involved in a car accident. Fatality rates for seniors involved in accidents are roughly seventeen times greater than those of individuals aged 25 to 64. What’s more, senior drivers are more likely to have health complications that interfere with their ability to operate a motor vehicle.

Common medical conditions faced by seniors — chronic pain, poor vision, arthritis, dementia — can impair critical functions seniors need to perform while driving (checking lanes, monitoring the flow of traffic, etc.). As Consumer Reports points out, even the medications taken by seniors to control certain conditions, like antidepressants and painkillers, can impede their ability to drive safely (and nearly 30 percent of seniors are estimated to be taking at least five prescription medications).

The point is that driving is a potentially risky activity for seniors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there should be an upper age limit for drivers. As it turns out, older drivers are less likely to get into accidents in the first place. More specifically, according to CBS News, “seniors in the age brackets 65 to 74, and 74 and above, have the lowest rate of crashes of any group that drives.”

This lends credence to the idea that it isn’t simply age that should be taken into consideration when discussing how safe it is to have older drivers on the road. Their overall fitness, driving record, driving habits, etc. should also be factors in determining their level of risk on the road. 

Looking at all the variables, it’s clear that, while accidents are more likely to result in fatalities for older drivers, their experience and propensity to safe driving habits typically make them less of a risk overall.