Hit or Myth: Surprising Stats about Older Drivers

Phoenix, May 8, 2013. Though it seems that everyone has heard a story about an older driver who’s slowly tooling down the highway with his left turn signal on for miles, senior motorists often are the safest drivers on the road. By 2030, an estimated one out of five drivers in the United States will be older than 65. In honor of May’s Older Americans Month, AAA wants to dispel some myths about older drivers.

“Though the natural changes that occur with age can have an adverse impact on one’s driving ability, decades of road experience makes older drivers’ statistically one of the safest groups on the road,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. “As an advocate for the motoring public, AAA believes it is important for senior drivers to learn how to compensate for those changes so that they can stay on the road longer and safer.”

As a leader in driver safety, AAA would like to discuss the following three myths and facts about older drivers:

  • MYTH: The fewer older drivers, the safer the roadways
    FACT:
    While there’s no such thing as the perfect driver, senior drivers tend to be safer drivers. In fact, ages 64 to 69 are statistically the safest drivers on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With their experience, seniors are less likely to drive distracted or impaired; tend to drive when conditions are safest; and don’t take as many risks, such as not driving at night.

     

  • MYTH: Older drivers are resistant to changes in driving laws.
    FACT:
    Though such laws as seat-belt use weren’t enacted for decades after many older drivers received their licenses, seniors are the most likely to buckle up – and therefore model safe driving habits to their passengers. In fact, 77 percent of older motor vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers) involved in fatal crashes were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, compared to 63 percent for adult occupants (18 to 64 years of age).

     

  • MYTH: Aging makes most older adults high-risk drivers.
    FACT:
    While specific abilities needed to drive safely, such as vision, memory, strength, reaction time and flexibility, decline as we age, the rate of change varies greatly. Many older drivers do not differ significantly from middle-age drivers in their driving skills. However, it’s important that senior drivers recognize changes as they age and take advantage of resources to help combat them.

“A lot of misconceptions remain about older drivers,” Gorman said. “Through workshops, such as Safe Driving for Mature Drivers, AAA is working to educate motorists on the strengths and weaknesses of drivers of any age.”

As a go-to source for traffic safety information, AAA would like to share the following resources that aim to help seniors get more information and improve road skills:

  • Safe Driving for Mature Drivers is a four-hour workshop that takes place in Phoenix and Tucson that could qualify participants for a discount on their auto insurance premiums. The course will help fine-tune driving skills; update knowledge of the rules of the road; and reduce chances of a traffic crash.
     
  • Roadwise Review is a scientifically-proven screening tool that measures functional abilities that are linked to crash risk amongst older drivers. To access the free online version, visit www.aaaseniors.com. To purchase the CD-ROM version, visit www.aaaazstore.com/pr.
     
  • DriveSharp is a computer program that can reduce crash risk by up to 50 percent by strengthening the brain’s ability to process what motorists are seeing so they can focus better, keep track of more on the road and react faster while driving. AAA members can purchase DriveSharp by visiting www.drivesharp.com.
     
  • AAASeniors.com: This one-stop online source offers expert advice about how aging affects one’s ability to drive safely. The information and tools on the site are designed to aid in starting conversations, assessing abilities and improving the comfort and safety of older drivers.

To learn more about these resources, go to www.az.aaa.com/news/traffic-safety.

AAA is an advocate for the safety and security for the motoring public. For more information on the club’s advocacy efforts, visit AAA.com.

AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.