Fatal crashes involving older Ohioans hit 10-year high in 2021
Columbus, Ohio – With fatal crashes involving older drivers on the rise, Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Ohio Department of Aging, and AAA are encouraging Ohioans to “Stay Fit to Drive” with resources specifically designed for older drivers and their families.
The American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (Dec. 5-9) takes place during the busy holiday season when many families come together. It offers an opportunity for families to examine different aspects of older driver safety and discover resources that can keep them and their loved ones safe and mobile.
“My administration has always focused on keeping everyone who travels in Ohio safe. We have developed several resources and programs to help older Ohioans adopt strategies for safe driving, and we also offer alternatives for older drivers who can no longer get behind the wheel safely,” said Governor DeWine. “We hope Ohio families take this opportunity to learn about the services that are available and talk with their loved ones about plans for continued safe mobility.”
Why Older Driver Safety Matters:
People aged 65 and older make up the fastest-growing segment of drivers nationally and in Ohio. By 2030, the state will have more than 4.8 million residents who are 65 or older.
Nationally, the total number of estimated fatalities for the age 65-and-older age group jumped by 14% in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
ODOT data shows that the number of deaths involving older drivers hit a 10-year high in 2021, when 299 people died in crashes on Ohio roads, representing 22% of all traffic deaths statewide. Deaths involving older drivers have been rising post-pandemic, as drivers resume normal activities.
“We know that older drivers are traditionally some of the safest drivers, but the number of fatal crashes involving this age group is, unfortunately, going in the wrong direction,” said Kimberly Schwind with the Ohio Conference of AAA Clubs. “As our older driver population grows, it’s essential that we work together to keep them safe while driving and mobile when it’s time to give up the keys.”
Risk Factors that Impact Driving:
While older drivers typically take fewer risks while driving than younger drivers, they are more likely to be injured or killed in a crash due to age-related fragility. In addition, normal aging may increase common risk factors for roadway crashes, including changes in vision, hearing, strength, visibility, reflexes, and memory. Medical conditions and certain medications also may impact the ability to drive safely.
“Our office is committed to making Ohio’s roads safer, but we all have a part to play,” said Felice Moretti, Director of the Ohio Traffic Safety Office. “We encourage older drivers to be proactive about safe driving and identify changes in visual and cognitive functions early. Younger drivers can protect other drivers and passengers by obeying the speed limit and never driving distracted or impaired.”
Resources for Road Users and Their Families:
To help prevent crashes, Ohio has state and local program resources that can help older drivers adopt strategies to stay safe on the road, as well as find alternatives to driving if they can no longer do so safely. These resources can be found on the website, transportation.ohio.gov/olderdrivers.
In addition, the Ohio Department of Aging has tips and resources for older Ohioans and their families. They help older drivers maintain their driving abilities and independence and understand the factors that affect their ability to stay behind the wheel safely. They also provide advice for discussing the topic with family members and finding transportation resources. Visit aging.ohio.gov/olderdrivers.
Tips for Older Driver Safety:
“Driving allows older Ohioans to maintain their independence and stay connected to family, friends, and their communities. While preserving that independence is important, it is also important for everyone to do their part to support safe driving practices to protect themselves and others,” said Ursel J. McElroy, Director of the Ohio Department of Aging. “Especially this year, as more people get back on the roads, and with the holidays right around the corner, it’s a smart time for older Ohioans and their loved ones to refamiliarize themselves on best practices for older drivers so they can get around with confidence.”
To help improve safety, state partners offer the following tips for older drivers and their families:
- Stay aware of your changing physical, vision, and hearing abilities and adjust your driving habits accordingly.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any medical conditions you have or medications you take could make it unsafe to drive.
- Do most of your driving during daylight and in good weather. Avoid busy roadways and rush hours whenever possible.
- Plan your route before you drive and choose routes with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn signals, and easy parking.
- Avoid distractions while driving, including talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, or listening to a loud radio.
- Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can react if the other driver stops or slows suddenly.
- Do not drive too slowly, as this can be as unsafe as speeding.