Older workers in nearly every occupation have a breadth and depth of experience that younger workers cannot match. Commercial drivers are no exception. They tend to be reliable and productive, and they exhibit safe driving behaviors such as obeying traffic rules and wearing seatbelts. These are traits that employers value.
However, older commercial drivers also have significantly higher on-the-job injury and fatality rates. In this blog post, we will explain some of the reasons for this and provide some pointers for older drivers that could help them stay safe on the road.
The scope of the problem
Drivers aged 55 and older are twice as likely to die in a work-related accident as drivers who are under 55. They are also more likely to suffer injuries, despite the fact that older drivers are generally safer drivers than younger drivers.
This conundrum may stem from the fact that physical and mental capabilities tend to diminish with age. These common age-related ailments can have a significant effect on a person’s driving abilities:
- Eyesight can grow worse with age.
- As people age, their peripheral vision diminishes.
- Age-related hearing loss can make it more difficult to hear horns, sirens and other vehicles.
- Diabetes, sleep apnea, and arthritis can make driving more difficult.
- A person’s physical strength can also diminish with age, making it more difficult to turn the wheel of a truck or apply the brakes.
Steps employers and commercial drivers can take
Employers can encourage safe driving and reduce the possibility of accidents by:
- Setting work schedules which allow drivers to complete their routes without the need to speed or take risks on the road.
- Adjusting working schedules for older drivers to minimize the need for night driving.
- Educating drivers on the signs of sleep disorders.
- Establishing wellness programs for all drivers.
- Providing refresher training to promote and encourage safe driving behaviors.
For their part, older drivers can take these steps:
- Talk with your doctor to understand the effects of medications on alertness and reaction time.
- Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
- Get an eye examination every 1 to 2 years.
- Ask your supervisor to change your work schedule if you are having trouble driving at night.
- Always wear a seat belt and obey traffic rules.
- Take advantage of a wellness program if your employer offers one. If it doesn’t, a wellness program may be available at a YMCA or local community center.
- If your employer does not offer safe driving training courses, take one on your own. Many auto insurance companies provide discounted premiums to policy holders who complete such courses.
Workers’ compensation benefits may be available to commercial drivers who have been injured and to dependents of drivers who have been killed while working. And, when an accident was the result of negligence on the part of another driver, you may be able to claim additional compensation through a third-party claim. Speak with an attorney if you have questions.