In Wisconsin and across the country, the number of people age 65 and over is growing. This trend has a variety of societal implications including potential impacts on drivers and highway safety.
As a group, older drivers tend to be safer drivers. They have more experience behind the wheel, are among those most likely to wear seat belts, abide by speed limits and other traffic laws.
Still, there are unavoidable consequences of aging such as a gradual decline in vision and physical reaction times. Older drivers, family members and caregivers should maintain open communication, be cognizant of changes and focus on the common goal of highway safety. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration provides a variety of resources for older drivers and caregivers.
Precautions aging drivers can take
- Always wear a seatbelt – every seat, every trip
- Avoid distractions like cell phones
- Be aware of medications and possible impacts on driving/alertness
- Avoid driving when weather or other conditions make travel challenging
- Consider driving during off-peak periods and stick to more familiar routes
Safety built into road design
WisDOT follows the Federal Highway Administration recommendations to design roads with older drivers in mind:
- Enlarging letters on street signs from 4 inches to 6 inches
- Installing more traffic lights and special turn signals, such as flashing yellow arrows, so drivers can better manage turns at busy intersections
- Building ''rescue islands'' in the middle of wide streets so older pedestrians don't have to cross in one signal cycle
- Where appropriate, using roundabouts which eliminate the two critical crash types at normal intersections, right angle and left turn
- Extending acceleration/deceleration lanes for safer entering or exiting highways.