There is an erroneous stereotype that holds old drivers are bad drivers.
The reality, however, is quite the opposite. A new report issued by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety indicates drivers over the age of 65, when compared to other age groups, are less likely to text and drive, more likely wear to their seat belts and rarely drink and drive.
That makes them among the safest drivers on the road. However, they are more likely to be killed if involved in a crash. The reasons for that are nuanced and individual circumstances often have much to do with it. It’s worth analyzing though, particularly as we consider that within the next decade, 25 percent of all drivers in the U.S. will be 65 or older.
Elder safety advocates note that not only are people living longer, they are healthier, more mobile and we can expect to see the number of aging drivers increase steadily in the coming years. That means we need to have a better understanding of the challenges they face, the benefits they pose and how we can best protect them and others who share the road.
In the next few months, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is kicking off one of the biggest interdisciplinary studies on aging drivers every conducted in the U.S. A collaborative effort with five universities across the country, the study is going to track 3,000 older motorists (between the ages of 65 and 79) over the course of five years.
The foundation is investing $12 million for the unprecedented project in an effort to better grasp the transportation needs of older Americans.
It’s the most recent phase of the organizations Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Some of the risk factors researchers will explore include:
- Deteriorating vision and hearing
- Prescription drug use
- Decreased strength and physical mobility
The five study sites are in New York, Michigan, Maryland, Colorado and California. Those sites will begin recruiting drivers, whose vehicles will be outfitted with devices that will allow study authors to assess driving patterns in real time. The data will include information on where and when seniors drive, what kind of maneuvers they make, how fast or slow they travel and what kinds of traffic accidents they are most likely to be involved in. Those who participate will agree to undergo annual medical exams that will weigh cognitive and physical functions.
One of the goals of the study is to get a better sense of when it may be time for drivers to retire the keys. Right now, there isn’t much information on the relationship between driving safety and old age. Many family members and doctors tend to rely largely on anecdotal evidence when considering whether to urge a loved one or patient to limit or stop driving.
Another important aspect is determining how certain technologies can benefit aging drivers. Things like crash warning signals, navigation systems and cameras can all potentially help protect older drivers – but to what extent? This is key because the reason older drivers are more likely to die in a crash is because their bodies are more fragile. They need to be better shielded.
Additionally, it will be important to weigh the impact of certain medications on driving ability.
Researchers say they want to help seniors remain mobile for longer periods of time. In the U.S., mobility means independence, and that’s something seniors both want and deserve.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
AAA invests $12 million in study of older drivers’ needs, Jan. 20, 2015, By Randi Belisomo, Reuters
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