Nearly 83 percent of older drivers say they’ve never spoken to a family member or physician about their safe driving ability, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA).
Of those who have had the conversation, 15 percent say they only did so after a crash of traffic infraction occurred.
“The right time to stop driving varies for everyone,” said Dr. David Yang, AAA Executive Director. “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 found that only 17 percent of older drivers say they have ever spoken to 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: seven percent
In 2016, more than 200,000 drivers ages 65 and older were injured in a traffic crash and more than 3,500 were killed.
The AAA recommends that seniors start planning for “driving retirement” at the same time they begin planning for retirement from work and that families start talking with older adults about safe driving early, rather than waiting for “red flags” like crashes, scrapes, medical diagnoses or worsening health conditions.
When talking to an older driver, the AAA recommends that families:
- 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 initiate a discussion with a loved one about staying mobile without a set of car keys is before you suspect there is a problem,” said Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research. “Planning for personal mobility and independence should be done working shoulder to shoulder with the older driver. Talking sooner, rather than later, can help set mutual expectations and reduce safety issues or emotional reactions down the line.”
For more information on AAA resources for older drivers visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.