Older Driver Safety Awareness week is 12/4 – 12/8 which aims to promote the importance of mobility and transportation to ensure those adults 65 and older remain active in their communities. By 2030, one in five people will be at least 65 years of age, with nearly 10 million people 85 years or older—an estimated 90 percent of this demographic will be licensed to drive, according to the U.S. Census Bureau
“People ages 65 and older are the fastest growing segment in today’s population and the issue of safe mobility for older drivers affects millions of families,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. “Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is an opportunity for families to address both real and perceived challenges associated with driving and aging.”
Traffic data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) found that the older adult population (65 and up) accounted for 21% of all licensed drivers in 2021 — that is 55.8 million licensed drivers. The crash data indicates that this group accounts for a disproportionate number of the annual traffic fatalities in the United States (17% in 2021). As people age, their physical, visual, and cognitive functions can decline, making them more vulnerable to severe injury or even death when involved in a vehicle crash. In fact, seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of 7-10 years and for the first time in history, we must plan for our “driving retirement” just as we plan for our financial retirement.
To better understand the risk factors of safe driving in older adults, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has been working on the Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) study. The most recent research has found that more than 70% of senior drivers in the study experienced health conditions impacting muscles and bones such as arthritis, hip and/or knee replacements, and joint pain. Older drivers should not let physical discomfort and low confidence limit their mobility or safety, especially when your doctor may help you find ways to address these issues. Oftentimes, simple adjustments to your vehicle, a driver refresher course or a change to your prescription medications can improve comfort and safety behind the wheel. The key is to speak up about it.
AAA recommends that families should start talking with older adults about safe driving and avoid waiting until there are “red flags” like crashes and scrapes on the car. Driving is a complex activity. It is essential that the older adult population be proactive about safe driving and learn ways to identify changes early. AAA research shows that daily exercise and stretching can help older drivers to improve overall body flexibility and move more freely to observe the road from all angles. Physical strength also helps drivers remain alert to potential hazards on the road and perform essential driving functions, like:
- Looking to the side and rear
- Adjusting the safety belts
- Sitting for long periods of time
Being proactive about safe driving skills, learning ways to identify changes early, and intervening as soon as possible can help older drivers maintain safe mobility.
Started in 1902 by automotive enthusiasts who wanted to chart a path for better roads in America and advocate for safe mobility, AAA has transformed into one of North America’s largest membership organizations. Today, AAA provides roadside assistance, travel, discounts, financial and insurance services to enhance the life journey of 64 million members across North America, including 57 million in the United States. To learn more about all AAA has to offer or to become a member, visit AAA.com.