By  Rosa L. Rodríguez-Acosta, PhD; Rebecca Olsavsky, MS; James Grosch, PhD; Harpriya Kaur, MPH; Bermang Ortiz, BA; and Juliann Scholl, PhD

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States. Millions of workers, such as long-haul truck drivers, sales representatives, and home health care staff, drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs. As our workforce ages, we need to pay special attention to the needs of older drivers in the workplace. The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety recently released a new fact sheet that provides employers and workers information on age-related physical and mental changes that may affect older workers’ driving, as well as resources and checklists for workers and employers to promote safe driving strategies.

Between 1994 and 2014, employment of older workers (65 years and older) increased by 117%, and this trend is expected to continue (BLS). By 2020, it is estimated that 30% of Americans and 25% of all workers will be 55 years and older, and 40 million licensed drivers will be 65 years and older.[i] Physical and mental changes that are a normal part of aging – such as declining eyesight, hearing, physical strength, and memory – can affect one’s ability to drive safely. However, the relationship between aging and safe driving is not so simple. Older individuals tend to practice better driving habits, such as wearing seat belts and following speed limits, and they are less likely than younger persons to be involved in a crash. But, they are at a higher risk of injury or death if involved in a crash, in part because the body becomes more vulnerable to severe injury with age.

Safety policies and training for older workers

It is important for employers to accommodate the needs and capacities of older workers through safety policies and training so they may continue to contribute their experience and expertise to their organization. When developing a safety program for older drivers, employers should take into consideration the normal physical and mental changes that come with aging. A safe driving program should include standard program elements such as policies and practices related to seat belt use, cell phones, and distracted and drowsy driving. Employers can also incorporate principles of journey management and flexible scheduling that may be particularly beneficial for older drivers; for example, planning routes in advance, allowing flexible work hours that keep workers off the road at peak congestion times, or authorizing workers to stop overnight if they are too tired to continue driving. Also, “refresher” training can provide drivers the opportunity to...Click here to read the rest of the blog post.