Older drivers offered tips

Staff report

Nationally, nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day as part of the large Baby Boomer generation, and many expect to work and remain active longer than their parents did, prolonging their need to drive.

December 5 – 9 is Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, and AAA has research, tips, and resources to help older drivers stay safe on the roads.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that nearly 20 percent of U.S. drivers are over the age of 65 and remain one of the fastest-growing demographic groups among U.S. drivers. As of 2014, of the 7.9 million licensed drivers in Ohio, 2.1 million are over the age of 65.

“Senior drivers can help reduce their risk on the road by updating their general driving knowledge and skills through a defensive driving refresher course, and self-regulating when and where they choose to drive,” said Cindy Antrican, AAA spokeswoman. “Some drivers may need to go a step further and have an objective assessment of their driving skills, which is also a good way to start the conversation about planning for a driving retirement, if it hasn’t already started.”

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report that found older drivers with a history of falling are 40 percent more likely to be involved in crashes than their peers. Falls limit an older drivers’ ability to function behind the wheel and can make driving risky for themselves and others on the road. Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, along with the foundation, said falls can increase crash risk in two ways:

• Loss of functional ability (i.e. wrist fractures or a broken leg), which can make it difficult for older drivers to steer or brake to avoid a crash.

• Falls can increase an individual’s fear of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activity that weakens driving skills.

One of the first steps in addressing older driver safety is having a non-threatening conversation with loved ones. Friends and family play a major role in discussions about older driver safety, and it’s better to start the conversation early, allowing time for planning and exploration of options long before any crisis or incident.

Just as you plan for retirement, it’s important to plan for a driving retirement and future transportation needs. Proactive, planning is vital to continued independence and safety.

Seniors should schedule a health check-up. An exam may identify problems before they start.

AAA offers CarFit, a community-based program that focuses on ensuring senior drivers are fitted correctly for their vehicle. Certified technicians lead drivers through a 12-point checklist with their vehicle, recommend personal vehicle adjustments and adaptations and offer community specific resources and activities that could make their personal vehicles “fit” better or enhance their safety. Mature driver assessments are also offered locally through the AAA Driving School.

For additional tips on helping seniors driver longer and safer, visit seniordriving.aaa.com.

Staff report