older worker

Workers who are 55 and older are 50% more likely to be killed in vehicle accidents than drivers who are younger than them, a study by the Centers for Disease Control has found.

The reason, according to the CDC, is declining cognition, which can lead to errors while driving and avoiding potential collisions, as well as a greater susceptibility to injuries and more difficulty in recovering from injuries.

Because older workers have invaluable experience and are usually safer drivers, the solution is not to take them off the road. There are other ways to accommodate older workers who drive as part of their job so that your company can still enjoy the benefits of keeping them on staff.

Both employers and workers should be aware that it is normal for physical and mental abilities to gradually decline with age — putting them at greater risk of dying if they are in a motor vehicle crash.

Some challenges that drivers over 55 may face include:

  • Worsening eyesight —Older eyes need more light and more time to adjust when light changes, so it can be hard to see clearly, especially at dawn, dusk, and night. Older drivers may become more sensitive to glare from headlights, street lights and the sun.
  • Peripheral vision — The ability to see to the side or up and down while looking ahead often declines as people age, increasing their risk of crashes.
  • Eye diseases — Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration become more common with age, making it harder for older drivers to read signs and see colors.
  • Age-related hearing loss — This can make it harder to hear horns, sirens, and noises from cars, which warn of possible danger.

Several diseases and conditions can affect the ability to drive.

  • Diabetes can make blood sugar levels too high or low, which can lead to drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness, or seizures.
  • Arthritis can make joints swollen and stiff, making it hard to grasp or turn the steering wheel, apply the brake and gas pedals, fasten a seat belt, or look for hazards.
  • Sleep can increase the risk of drowsy driving.
  • Parkinson’s disease can affect balance and movement, diminishing a driver’s ability to safely operate motor vehicle controls.
  • Other chronic diseases and the use of multiple medications may interfere with sleep quality, increasing risk for drowsy driving.

Mitigating your risks

Obviously, you don’t want to sideline career drivers as they are likely invaluable to your operations.

There are a number of ways to mitigate the factors through prevention and wellness programs, and workers can help by getting regular health exams and screenings.

You can address a number of contributing factors in your safety training and Injury and Illness Prevention Plan, including avoiding long hours behind the wheel to reduce fatigue and occupational stress; not pressuring drivers to drive too fast in order to meet time-sensitive delivery promises; reducing the probability of distracted driving, and enforcing the use of seatbelts.

The CDC recommends the following additional interventions of particular benefit to all older drivers, although some of these points may not be feasible:

  • Select and adapt vehicles to better accommodate them.
  • Institute policies that encourage less driving overall and less night-time driving.
  • Require route and trip planning to reduce stress and fatigue.
  • Provide your workers with information about medical conditions and medications known to affect driving ability.
  • Allow your drivers to use their judgment to reschedule travel or stop driving in cases of fatigue, illness, bad weather or darkness.

The takeaway

Companies with driving employees who are older than 55 can usually count on them being safer drivers overall, however, they may also be dealing with some age-related issues that can affect their driving.

By taking the above steps to work with those older drivers, you can help reduce the chances of them having a serious accident while on the job.

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