Eighty-three percent of older drivers report never speaking to a family member or physician about their safe driving ability, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Of the small percentage of families who do have the often-difficult conversation, 15 percent do so after a crash or traffic infraction has occurred- which could be too late. Due to their fragility, older drivers are at greater risk of death and injury if involved in a crash.
In 2016, more than 200,000 drivers ages 65 and older were injured in a traffic crash and more than 3,500 were killed. With seniors outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of seven to 10 years, families should not wait to talk about safety. AAA urges seniors to begin planning for “driving retirement” at the same time they begin planning for retirement from work.
“The right time to stop driving varies for everyone,” said Mary Maguire, AAA Northeast Director of Public and Legislative Affairs. “This research shows that older drivers can be hesitant to initiate conversations about their driving capabilities, so it is important that families encourage them to talk early and often about their future behind the wheel. With early discussion and proper planning, elderly drivers may extend their time on the road.”
The report is the latest research released in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Researchers found that only 17 percent of older drivers report ever speaking with a family member or physician about driving safety. The most commonly cited reasons for having the discussion include:
AAA recommends that families start talking with older adults about safe driving early and avoid waiting until there are "red flags" like crashes, scrapes on the car (from bumping into garages, signs, etc.), new medical diagnoses, or worsening health conditions. It is helpful to begin discussions when an older driver starts planning for other life changes, like retirement from work or moving to a new home. When talking to an older driver, families should:
“The best time to initiate a discussion with a loved one about staying mobile without a set of car keys is before you suspect there is a problem,” Ms. Maguire said “Planning for personal mobility and independence should be done working shoulder to shoulder with the older driver. Talking sooner, rather than later, can help set mutual expectations and reduce safety issues or emotional reactions down the line.”
Families should have a plan to help keep the older driver on the road for as long as safely possible. Past research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that older adults who have stopped driving are almost two times more likely to suffer from depression and nearly five times as likely to enter a long-term care facility as those who remain behind the wheel. The AAA Driver Planning Agreement can serve as a guide to starting conversations about safety, allowing families to plan together for future changes in driving abilities before they become a concern.
For more information on AAA resources for older drivers, such as RoadWise online/classroom courses or other programs that help seniors better “fit” with their vehicles, visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that only 17 percent of senior drivers have spoken to physicians or family members about their driving abilities. AAA provides senior drivers and their families with the resources they need to help keep the older driver on the road for as long as safely possible.