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MassDOT Recognizes Older Driver Safety Awareness Week 

BostonThe Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is raising awareness about the unique challenges facing drivers who are 65 years of age and older and encouraging families, friends and providers to initiate critical conversations about driver safety and mobility. During the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) annual Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, which runs December 4 through December 8, valuable information is shared to help inform driving decisions. This informational campaign promotes a wide range of resources that encourage discussions around older driver safety.

“It’s so important for all of us to have conversations with our loved ones about safety issues, especially when it comes to driving,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Monica Tibbits-Nutt. “Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is a good opportunity to encourage those difficult conversations because we just want to keep the traveling public safe.” 

“It’s important to plan for changes in driving ability and identify alternatives to driving,” said Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie. “Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is an important time for individuals to not only assess their driving, but to create a ‘transportation plan’, much like what many are encouraged to do for retirement. Mobility can change - even temporarily. By accurately assessing age-related changes, older drivers may consider adjusting their driving habits to remain safe on the road or choose other kinds of transportation. We encourage individuals to use the informational tools and educational resources that are available through the RMV and continue to have these critical conversations to help prevent crashes.”

Decisions about driving ability should never be based on age alone, however, changes in vision, reflexes, physical fitness, and cognitive fitness may cause safety concerns. Most older adults outlive their ability to drive safely by an average of seven to ten years, according to AAA Traffic Safety Foundation.  Being proactive about safe driving skills, learning ways to identify changes early, and intervening as soon as possible can help older drivers maintain safe mobility.

According to NHTSA, the U.S. population of people 65 and older increased by 22% between 2012 and 2021. Additionally, in 2021 the number of people 65 and older killed in traffic crashes made up 17% percent of all traffic fatalities. National Highway Safety Administration reminds motorists that simply getting older doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up their keys, but they should evaluate how they – or loved ones – drive.

In Massachusetts, statistics show there has been an increase in fatalities involving individuals and drivers 65 years of age and older as follows: 

  • In 2021, there were 78 reported fatalities, followed by 109 fatalities in 2022, resulting in a 33% increase in one year.
  • Currently, approximately 1,095,031 individuals 65 years of age and older have active driver’s licenses in Massachusetts, an increase of almost 20,000 from 2022.

The RMV offers the following resources and workshops for older adults and providers:

  • Visit the RMV’s website for older driver resources and learn more about older driver safety.
  • Attend one of the RMV’s free Safe Driving workshops:
    • Shifting Gears – rules of the road, defensive driving, and safe driving tips.
    • The Driving Decision – advice for families and providers who are concerned about a person’s ability to drive safely.
  • View RMV’s video, Shifting Gears, which highlights how age-related changes can affect a person’s ability to drive and how everyone can support older driver safety and mobility.

Additional information and recommendations on how older drivers can stay safe while driving can be found on the NHTSA’s website. Information for practitioners/providers can be found on the AOTA’s website.