| Tue, Jun 11, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

Rules of the Road for Safe Driving

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

safe driving for seniorsMany people drive safely well into their 80s and 90s. Still, problems with vision, hearing, slow reaction times or other things that may impair driving ability can sneak up on you. If you know about them, you may be able to take steps to adapt and continue driving safely longer.

It’s a good idea to check in with yourself and your loved ones about your driving ability. The rate of accidents per mile of driving increases for drivers 65 and older, according to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. And the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that fatal crash rates start to rise at age 75, becoming notable after age 80. The higher fatality rate is due to older drivers being more easily injured, rather than to a higher likelihood of getting into a crash, CDC says.

Stay Safe on the Road

Older drivers actually have a lot going for them in terms of driving safely. The CDC reports that:

  • Older adults are more likely to wear seatbelts than drivers or passengers age 21 to 64.

  • Older drivers tend to limit driving during bad weather and at night. They also drive fewer miles in general.

  • Older drivers are less likely to drink and drive than other adult drivers.

Age itself is not the reason that driving may become unsafe for some people. Usually the driver’s ability is affected by underlying health problems or medications. Changes in vision and hearing may affect driving, for example. Medical conditions, such as arthritis or diabetes, and changes in memory or thinking can also have an impact.

It’s important to be alert for clues that driving ability may be changing. AAA recommends considering health problems that may affect driving if you have had:

  • Two or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past two years.

  • Two or more traffic accidents or near-misses in the past two years.

How Medicare Can Help

It’s important to stay current with vision and hearing exams so you can address any changes right away. Many private Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage for vision and hearing exams. Original Medicare does not include these benefits. You may pay a monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage plan in addition to the Part B premium you pay to Medicare. The 2013 Part B premium is $104.90 each month for most people. 

Many Medicare Advantage plans offer health and wellness programs as well. Strength and flexibility training, for example, may help maintain or improve muscle fitness and reaction times. Most Medicare Advantage plans also include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D).

AAA says that a typical driver makes 20 decisions per mile, with less than half a second to respond to changes in the roadway. Drivers need to be physically and mentally alert at all times. To stay safe, be aware of your driving ability and take steps to adapt to changes if you need to.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.


Senior Driving: Get safe driving information, tools and tips from AAA.

Medicare.gov: Visit the official U.S. government site for Medicare.


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