skip to main content

Safety efforts keeping older drivers out of harm's way

11/10/2020 McCall Macomber

As people age, the risk of being injured or fatally injured in a motor vehicle crash increases.

By 2030, adults 65 and older are projected to make up more than 20% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here to create safer roads for this rapidly growing population are Illinois Center for Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation in their joint project, “R27-201: Motor Vehicle Crashes among the Older Population.”

Yan Qi, a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville associate professor, leads the effort with Cynthia Watters and Mehdi Nassirpour, IDOT’s bureau chief of safety programs and engineering and former manager of research and evaluation, respectively

<span style="font-size: 0.8em;">Photo provided by </span>Yan<span style="font-size: 0.8em;"> </span>Qi<span style="font-size: 0.8em;">. The data, provided by Illinois Department of Transportation, shows the total number of crashes and percentage of motor vehicle crashes involving older people in Illinois from 2011 to 2016. As the total number of crashes increased, so did the number and percentage of crashes involving older people.</span>
Photo provided by Yan Qi. The data, provided by Illinois Department of Transportation, shows the total number of crashes and percentage of motor vehicle crashes involving older people in Illinois from 2011 to 2016. As the total number of crashes increased, so did the number and percentage of crashes involving older people.

Researchers examined statewide crash data and socioeconomic factors as well as surveyed drivers 65 and older to identify where crash risks may be mitigated and make recommendations for improved safety all while “promoting mobility and independence” among older adults, Qi said.

The results?

Several factors can influence crashes among older adults, including traffic-control devices, roadway alignment, lighting and prescription drug use.

“Based on Illinois data, (the) outcomes of the project consisted of recommendations for areas with high numbers of seniors,” Watters said.

These recommendations include considerations for roadway design, such as allowing for longer driver perception and reaction times, including longer diverging and merging segments, and moving street parking further away from intersections.

The team also recommends modifying traffic-control devices — such as adjusting the timing of traffic signals to older pedestrians’ walking speed — and targeting educational outreach campaigns toward at-risk groups.

“By following the recommendations, the number of older persons injured in motor vehicle crashes, as well as the severity of their injuries, could be reduced,” Watters said.