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Older Driver Safety Awareness Week kicks off


Mon, Dec 4th 2023 11:45 am

AAA promotes mobility and independence for older drivers

By AAA of Western and Central New York

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (Dec. 4-8) is underway. The annual weeklong campaign aims to promote the importance of mobility and transportation to ensure older adults remain active in the community and safe behind the wheel.

Older Americans today are healthier and more active than ever before. The aging baby boomer generation is the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. By 2030, there will be more than 70 million people aged 65 and older, and approximately 85% to 90% of them will be licensed to drive. In fact, seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of seven to 10 years, and, for the first time in history, people must plan for “driving retirement” just as they plan for financial retirement.

Senior drivers are among the safest drivers on the road and often reduce their risk of injury by wearing safety belts, not drinking and driving, and by observing speed limits; however, seniors are more likely to be injured or killed in a crash due to age-related fragility. With the exception of teenagers, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven. As we age, our ability to drive safely is affected by natural changes to our bodies over time.

Driving safely can become a concern due to age-related changes in physical, cognitive and sensory function. To extend the number of years that older adults can drive safely, some self-regulate their driving. Self-regulation refers to modifying driving habits, such as driving less frequently or avoiding challenging situations like driving at night, in bad weather, or during rush hour, due to declining abilities.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has been examining aging drivers in a LongROAD Study with key findings that were just released in October. Researchers used in-person assessments and self-report questionnaires across several states including New York over a five-year period. This was the first study to look at frailty and the connection to self-regulation among older drivers. The findings suggest that older drivers with worse physical function self-regulate to avoid challenging driving situations due to declining abilities.

AAA is dedicated to keeping seniors driving for as long as safely possible. 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 braking, steering, parking, looking to the side and rear, adjusting the safety belts, and sitting for long periods of time.

AAA Western and Central New York offers professional driving assessments that are helpful to older drivers. Driving performance should be assessed regularly. Think about getting a professional driving assessment just like an annual wellness checkup – it’s a smart way to identify and manage any physical or mental changes.

It's especially important to get a comprehensive driving skills evaluation or clinical driving assessment through a professional organization like AAA for those who have been diagnosed with a medical condition known to impact driving ability or for those who have experienced a recent near miss or minor crash. Often, friends and/or family may refer an older driver to AAA for an unbiased evaluation.

More information can be found at www.AAA.com/Senior. AAA also offers defensive driving classes that qualify for an insurance discount. Learn more at www.AAA.com/DriverTraining.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 862,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

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