TOWSON, MD (August 14, 2018) – Nearly 83 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 nationwide in a traffic crash and more than 3,500 were killed.
In Maryland, the number of drivers aged 65 and older who are injured, in a crash has been on the rise in recent years, as nearly 3,400 drivers were injured in 2017, an increase of 31 percent from 2013, according to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office. In 2017, 59 senior Maryland drivers were killed, an increase of 69 percent from the 35 killed in 2013.
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 Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety. “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:
- Driving safety concerns (falling asleep while driving, trouble staying in lane): 65 percent
- Health issues: 22 percent
- Driving infraction or crash: 15 percent
- Planning for the future: 7 percent
AAA Mid-Atlantic 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:
- Start early and talk often: Be positive, be supportive and focus on ways to help keep them safe when behind the wheel, including other forms of transportation available to older drivers.
- Avoid generalizations: Do not jump to conclusions about an older driver’s skills or abilities.
- Speak one-on-one: Keep the discussion between you and the older driver. Inviting the whole family to the conversation can create feelings of alienation or anger.
- Focus on the facts: Stick to information you know, like a medical condition or medication regimen that might make driving unsafe. Do not accuse an older driver of being unsafe or assume that driving should be stopped altogether.
- Plan Together: Allow the older driver to play an active role in developing the plan for their driving retirement.
“The best time to start a discussion with an older loved one about staying mobile without a car is before you suspect there is a problem with their driving,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Talking sooner rather than later, can help set mutual expectations and reduce safety issues or emotional reactions down the line. Planning for personal mobility and independence should be done together with the older driver.”
It is important that families 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. Families can use the AAA Driver Planning Agreement as a guide to starting conversations about safety. The agreement allows families to plan together for future changes in driving abilities before they become a concern.
AAA offers a variety of resources for older drivers:
RoadWise Driver course – an online senior-focused program that addresses natural age-based changes and adjusting habits to reduce risk. The program identifies the top five causes of senior collisions and provides useful tips, proven methods, and practical knowledge for seniors to use while driving.
Driver Skills Assessment – a behind-the-wheel evaluation of ones abilities which identifies strengths/weaknesses and concerns observed during a routine drive and provides recommendations and feedback on areas for improvement.
AAA’s Senior Driving website – a site dedicated to helping seniors improve their driving performance using tools and resources for individual drivers and their families.
RoadWise Rx – a tool to help you understand how medications may affect you and your driving.
CarFit - developed by the American Society on Aging in collaboration with AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association, CarFit is a community-based program that provides a quick, yet comprehensive 12-point check of how well you and your car work together.
About LongROAD: Recognizing that lifestyle changes, along with innovative technologies and medical advancements will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has launched a ground-breaking, multi-year research program to more fully understand the driving patterns and trends of older drivers in the United States. The AAA LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) study is one of the largest and most comprehensive senior driver databases available on senior drivers incorporating 2,990 participants being followed for five years. It will support in-depth studies of
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About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit AAAFoundation.org.
AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than 937,000 members in Maryland. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit AAA.com.