Nine in 10 older drivers buckle up when they get behind the wheel and more than a third have taken driver improvement courses, according to data surveying more than 7,000 seniors. Survey findings, collected by AAA, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and AARP also reveal that twice the number of women attended driver safety courses despite the fact that older men drove more often than older women by 12 percent. AAA is promoting the data to help debunk the perception that older drivers are a menace on the road.
“The silver tsunami is often unfairly dubbed as risky and dangerous. These data tell us that they practice safe driving behaviors and that more than a third of older drivers have actively sought out and participated in programs to improve their skills,” says AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research Jake Nelson.
“Older drivers are among the safest on the road. They don’t participate in risky driving behaviors like distracted driving or driving under the influence. They tend to be aware of their limitations and usually will regulate their driving,” added the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Community Programs and Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “They’ll limit their freeway driving, nighttime driving and curtail driving in unfamiliar areas,” she added.
Other survey data revealed that more than half (52 percent) of drivers 65 and older typically drive seven days a week. “Even when they’re driving every day, seniors do not pose a disproportionate threat on the roads,” said Nelson. “In fact, drivers in their mid-to-late 80s have lower crash rates per mile driven than drivers in their early 20s and roughly half the crash rate of teenagers.”
The findings were collected from drivers who participated in CarFit a free program offered by AAA, AOTA and AARP. Typically offered at community events, CarFit runs older drivers and their vehicles through a 12-point checklist with trained technicians who assess the fit of a driver’s car by checking for optimum and safe settings such as distance from and sight line above the steering wheel and proper mirrors settings.
To find out about future Southern California CarFit events and to learn more about the program, go to www.car-fit.org. Events are scheduled for May 31 at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach; July 20 in Culver City and July 31 in Irvine. The next Auto Club CarFit event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, at Jewish Family Service North County Inland Center, 15905 Pomerado Road, Poway 92064. To make an appointment to go obtain a 20-minute CarFit in Poway, call the Auto Club’s Lora Babilo at 714-885-2312.
According to CarFit participant data, the top four “fit” challenges for older drivers included improper distance from steering wheel (59 percent); adequate and safe views from side mirrors (32 percent); improper seat height (28 percent) and improper head restraint height (21 percent). The good news is that after a run through the CarFit 12-point program, 97 percent of participants’ issues were resolved.
Since CarFit launched nationally, more than 31,000 older drivers have gone through the program. “While the primary goal is to teach drivers how to attain a safe and comfortable fit, the program also increases awareness that adaptations and modifications are available when medical conditions or changes make finding the best fit difficult,” says occupational therapist Elin Schold David of AOTA. “CarFit benefits the whole community by helping the senior driver be a safer driver.”
As a leading road safety advocate for more than 110 years, AAA provides expert advice and helpful resources for older adults and their families—working to support them as they tackle the challenges of balancing safety and mobility. SeniorDriving.AAA.com provides convenient, online access to a wealth of interactive material and AAA’s Senior Driver Safety Expos offer a local hands-on opportunity to sample AAA’s suite of free tools and programs.