Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Dec. 9, 2022
(Douglas County, Colo.) So far, in 2022, drivers over 65 have caused over a third of fatal crashes on Colorado’s roads, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation Fatal Analysis Crash System.
At least 53 fatal crashes have been attributed to older drivers across the state as of Oct. 31 — nearly reaching the 2021 year-to-date number of 56 fatal crashes — and twice as many as the 28 young driver fatalities reported so far this year.
According to preliminary 2022 data, 576 fatal crashes have been recorded on Colorado roads this year, resulting in 638 deaths, compared to 535 crashes in 2021, resulting in 581 deaths.
To curb these trends, the Colorado Department of Transportation joined with local programs to observe Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, Dec. 5-9.
Older drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash due to the greater fragility of their aging bodies, CDOT stated. Research suggests that older adults can expect to outlive their ability to drive safely by seven to 10 years.
Douglas County Senior Resource Deputy Ryan Falkner said the decision to stop driving is personal and is often a conversation started by the older driver or concerned family members.
In 2021, Colorado implemented a law that any driver over 61 must renew their license every five years (younger drivers may renew every 10 years). The law also requires Coloradans over 80 to attest they had an eye exam within a year before renewing their license.
Falkner noted that law enforcement and doctors could also require the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles to administer a driving test for older adults.
CDOT provides information to older adults on alternative ride programs and offers assistance to help older adults who drive stay safe behind the wheel. Falkner said the Castle Rock Senior Center and Douglas County Older Adult Services offer transportation services, and other resources if older adults no longer feel comfortable behind the wheel.
CDOT sponsors CarFit events around the state. At these events, volunteers check for
- A seat belt that holds the driver in the proper position and remains comfortable while driving
- The tilt of the steering wheel and position of the airbag
- Adequate room (at least 10 inches) between the chest and the airbag
- A properly adjusted head restraint
- A clear line of sight above the steering wheel and dash
- Easy access to gas and brake pedals
- Properly adjusted mirrors
- Ability to see around the vehicle by reducing the driver’s blind spots
- The ability to turn the vehicle’s ignition key with ease or operate an ignition system
- Easy operation of vehicle controls including turn signals, headlights, emergency flashers, windshield wipers, and the parking brake, among others
“Getting older doesn’t mean it's time to hang up the keys, but it is a time to reflect on how age affects one’s ability to drive,” said Darrell Lingk, CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety director.
“Taking proactive steps to stay safe as you age is important. And with so many transportation alternatives, it has never been easier to find other ways to get around.”
Some drivers can safely drive their whole lives, but others have medical conditions affecting their eyesight, sleep, muscle control or memory, making driving more difficult and dangerous.
Deputy Falkner said other drivers on the road should give older drivers room and grace while driving, especially after dark.
“Typically, as you age, your response times slow down, so give them as much space as possible,” Falkner said. “Driving at night can be worrisome as well…so if they are driving at night, they’re probably going a little slower, but just treat them the way you want to be treated — don’t cut them off, don’t be a rude driver, just obey traffic laws and get to where you need to go.”
Colorado’s Guide for Aging Drivers and Their Families is free and can answer most questions, including license reexamination and laws, resources for Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, Area Agency on Aging centers, and is available online at healthpromotionpartners.com/aging-drivers-guide.
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