Law Enforcement

Driving safety is a priority in any community and for all law enforcement officers. This page was created specifically for the North Carolina law enforcement community to provide useful information about older drivers as well as links to get additional and valuable information. 

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, adults age 65 years and older are the fastest growing segment of the population in the United State.  The percentage of licensed older adults has jumped 19% between 1978 and 2008, while in that same time period, the total number of licensed drivers only increased 13% (Traffic Safety Facts 2008). This means that we have increasing larger numbers and percentage of older drivers on the road. 

Overall, older adults are safe drivers.  With our increased life span, more older adults intend to drive into their 80’s and 90’s.  While many will continue to be safe drivers, health conditions which impact the skills to be able to drive safely affect the older population at a much higher proportion, such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis.  The additional issue is the fact when in an automobile collision, the older adult is usually at risk for greater injury due to increased frailty and does not recovery as quickly from injuries.

Why Law Enforcement Needs to Intervene

Driving is the primary mode of transportation for North Carolina and older adults, particularly in our rural areas, are going to stay mobile as long as possible.  The majority of older adults are good drivers, however, there comes a time when older adults with medical conditions may be unsafe on the road.

Almost everyone claims to be a good driver.  This is particularly true of older adults who have been driving for 50 plus years.  Many of them are proud they never got a ticket. However, there may come a time the older adult with physical or mental incapacities makes more mistakes or draws too slowly, for example.  It can be very difficult for family members to approach the topic of their spouse or parent needing to cease driving, even when they see the older driver may be unsafe.  As law enforcement officers on the road who observe an older driver have a problem or if you stop an older driver for a violation, it is critical to follow through with the legal process.  It may be the first documentation of a problem of which the family is unaware or has ignored.  Just as stopping and identifying a younger driver or a drunk driver, identification of an issue may save someone’ life.

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