Compared to other drivers, seniors as a group are less likely to speed, less likely to drive after drinking, and more likely to buckle their seat belts. Seniors also tend to avoid high-risk driving situations such as driving at night, on unfamiliar roads, and in poor weather conditions. Older adults are involved in fewer traffic crashes and tend to travel fewer miles than their younger counterparts.
However, today’s seniors can expect, on average, to live for seven to 10 years beyond their ability to drive safely. So, for the first time in history, we must plan for retiring from driving just as we plan on retiring from work.
About 37 million licensed drivers in the U.S. are age 65 or older; that’s close to 18 percent of all licensed drivers. Just because someone is 65, 75 or 85 doesn’t mean his or her ability to drive safely is compromised. Drivers age differently and at their own pace.
But increasing age does start to impact certain abilities important for driving, such as vision and reaction time. Older adults also have a greater occurrence of medical conditions that may require medications, which can affect safe driving. So, the true risk for seniors on the road is not age, but rather their medical fitness to drive.
Seniors with decreasing functional abilities face an increased risk of crashing and can benefit from certain adjustments designed to keep them safe and mobile for as long as possible.
Those adjustments are part of a wealth of information available at SeniorDriving.AAA.com, AAA’s national senior driving help website for older drivers and their families. The site will help you evaluate your driving abilities and improve your driving skills.
In the News & Safety section of AAA.com you can also find Key Timing, created by AAA Northeast specifically for families of older drivers. We receive calls often from family members concerned about a loved one being able to drive safely. Key Timing addresses those concerns and points drivers and families to local resources.
Senior driver safety and mobility are quality-of-life issues. By working to protect senior drivers and promote senior driving help, we can maintain confidence and independence among seniors, and foster a society where older adults can live to their full potential.
For more driving classes and safety tips, visit AAA.com/Automotive.
By Mark A. Shaw