Improving transportation safety for seniors

Written By Ross Capon

One of our regular talking points is the importance of trains and transit for the growing senior population. Jessica Anderson, in her Drive Time column in the new (December) Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, says that, “as a group, seniors age 80 and older have the highest rate of fatal crashes per mile driven—even higher than for teens—according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Simply put, too many people continue driving when it’s no longer safe for them to do so. Vision problems, slower reactions and other effects of aging increase the risk of crashes. But most state legislatures ignore the problem.”

  • Only 19 states make seniors renew their licenses more often than younger drivers.
  • Half of those states cut eight- to ten-year renewal periods down to four to six years.
  • Only two states—Illinois and New Mexico—require annual renewal.
  • Illinois is the only state to mandate that drivers retake the road test as they age.

Anderson continues, “Driving represents independence and freedom, in addition to providing mobility, and politicians aren’t eager to take on seniors by making driver’s license renewals more stringent.”

So it falls to family members to take action where appropriate. The rest of Anderson’s good column has helpful advice, including the possibility of involving the family doctor. Here are two more passages: “Before you have the conversation [with the senior whose driving concerns you], investigate transportation options in your area and their cost. Calculate how much money your family member would save by driving less or not at all, and point out that the savings could be used for other ways of getting around….To see the laws in your state and more information about elder driving safety, go to”

This is a good time to remember that Amtrak generously offers a 15% discount off rail fares for anyone aged 62 and older – all you need do is prove your age. Many transit systems offer good discounts, though not always at age 62.