Safety concerns of older drivers demand more attention from
employers and workers.
Roadway crashes are the leading cause of
occupational fatalities for older workers in the U.S. Between 1992 and
2002, nearly 3,200 workers aged 55 years and older died in motor vehicle
crashes on public highways, accounting for 22% of all occupational fatalities
among this worker group. Other leading fatal events among older workers
were falls (14%), nonhighway motor vehicle crashes (those that occurred
or originated entirely off the highway or on industrial or commercial
premises) (12%), and homicide (11%).
Source: NIOSH analysis of the Census
of Fatal Occupational Injuries, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data exclude
New York City.
and use of medication may contribute to fatal work-related crashes
61-year-old motor coach driver and six passengers were killed when
a bus left the roadway around 4 a.m. and entered an "emergency parking
area," striking a parked tractor-trailer and pushing it into a second
tractor-trailer. An off-duty police officer reported seeing the
bus drift within its travel lane a few minutes before the crash.
Investigators concluded that fatigue due to an irregular work-rest
schedule and a sedating antihistamine were major contributors to
between age and driving behavior is complex
In the general population, fatal crash involvement
rates decrease with age. Death rates for work-related roadway crashes
increase steadily beginning around age 55, and begin to approach rates
for the general population (see graph).
Older drivers are more likely than other drivers
to have a crash at an intersection (particularly when turning left),
and when merging or changing lanes on a freeway.
Changes due to normal aging may affect an older person’s
ability to drive. These may include diminished vision (e.g., reduced
night vision and intolerance of glare), slower reaction times, declines
in cognitive functioning, and decreasing muscle strength and range
of motion. Although most do not affect a person’s ability to
work, they may affect the ability to safely operate a vehicle. These
changes are gradual and highly variable, affecting some drivers much
more than others.
Older workers may also experience a variety of chronic
conditions that can affect their ability to drive, including arthritis
and macular degeneration.
Unlike their retired counterparts who can wait for
better driving conditions, older workers often have to drive in poor
conditions to meet deadlines or delivery dates.
Rates for Work-related Roadway Crashes vs. Fatal Crash Involvement
for Drivers in the General Population, by Age Group, U.S., 2002
are reported as full-time equivalent (FTE) and are from
a NIOSH analysis of the 2002 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries,
Bureau of Labor statistics. Data exclude New York City.
**Rates are from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's
Traffic Safety Facts 2002.
What can employers and workers do to prevent crashes?
Older workers bring a lifetime
of skills and experience to their jobs, making valuable contributions
into their 70s and beyond. Yet, the normal aging process may affect
a worker’s ability to drive safely, on or off the job. Although
illnesses and other health problems can interfere with driving ability,
the effect of many conditions on driving can be reduced or resolved
with treatment. The safety of older drivers in the workplace is
a shared responsibility of employers and their employees. Forward-thinking
safety programs, reasonable accommodations, and open lines of communication
between employers and workers can help protect valued older employees
from death or disability due to roadway crashes.
Tips for Employers
- Assign a key member of the management team responsibility
and authority to set and enforce comprehensive driver safety
- Enforce mandatory seat belt use.
- Do not require workers to drive irregular hours or far
beyond their normal working hours.
- Promote worker health and safety through activities aimed
at improving the general health of the workforce (e.g.,
exercise, diet, and smoking cessation programs).
|Assessing Driving Ability
- Assess driving ability through regular physical exams
by trained health professionals.
- Restrict driving based on assessment of actual driving
ability – not solely on general health status or an
arbitrary age limit.
- If a worker’s ability to drive is affected temporarily
or permanently, make every effort to accommodate that worker
to other job duties.
|Promoting Safe Driving
- Provide “refresher” driver training and encourage
older workers to attend.
- Encourage using familiar routes of delivery.
- Maintain complete and accurate records of workers’
Tips for Workers
|Prior to Your Trip
- Make sure that you are well-rested.
- Adjust steering wheel, seat, controls, and mirrors.
- Clean lights and windows, and inspect your tires.
- Plan your route, especially if you will be traveling in
an unfamiliar area, and allow plenty of time to reach your
- Determine if there are construction zones or detours along
- Avoid driving at night and in inclement weather.
|During Your Trip
- Use caution at intersections and interchanges, especially
when making left hand turns, and avoid cutting between approaching
vehicles when doing so.
- Do not use a cell phone while operating a vehicle.
- Stop for regular rest breaks, and do not continue to drive
if you are tired.
|Health and Mobility
- Maintain good physical health through regular physical
activity, proper diet, and regular physical exams by your
health care provider.
- Talk with your health care provider or pharmacist about
the individual or combined effects of prescription or non-prescription
medications on your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
- If chronic pain or decreased range of motion is making
it difficult to drive, seek advice from a professional with
knowledge of driver rehabilitation or adaptive technologies.
Simple changes such as extra mirrors or ergonomic seats
can make a difference.
For Additional Information
*Mention of any company or product does not constitute
endorsement by NIOSH. In addition, citations to Web sites do not constitute
NIOSH endorsement of the sponsoring organizations or their programs or
products. Furthermore, NIOSH is not responsible for the content of these
Vehicle topic page
Hazard Review: Work-related Roadway Crashes
(features additional information on older workers)
for Traffic Safety
External link: http://www.seniordrivers.org/home/toppage.cfm
– Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists
External link: http://www.aded.net/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=1
of Retired Persons
External link: http://www.aarp.org/life/drive/
(features the Physician’s Guide for Assessing and Counseling
External link: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/8925.html
(features publications on designing roadways to accommodate
External link: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/tfhrc/safety/od.htm
Institute for Highway Safety
External link: http://www.hwysafety.org/safety%5Ffacts/fatality%5Ffacts/older%5Fpeople.htm
Center for Injury Prevention and Control
External link: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/older.htm
Highway Traffic Safety Administration
External link: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/olddrive/
For additional information, please visit the NIOSH Web site at www.cdc.gov/niosh
or contact us by phone at:
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