February 23, 2020 - WASHINGTON, D.C. – New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that as older adults reduce their driving, men report having fewer resources for making important life decisions. Compared to women, men over age 65 who have reduced their driving in the last year report lower levels of social support when it comes to advice, suggestions and information about issues they may be facing. Because driving is closely tied to freedom and independence, AAA recommends families with older loved ones plan ahead together, especially when it comes to important decisions like limiting driving and putting reliable informational resources in place.
“When it comes to older drivers, data from our study suggests there are perceived social support differences between older male and female drivers,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Men and women who have reduced their driving report similar levels of care and emotional support from friends and family, but older male drivers find it harder to seek out advice and guidance.”
Of the study’s 2,990 participants, 1 in 5 older drivers reported reducing their driving in the past year, with more women, 57%, than men, 43%, saying they had cut back on driving. The findings are part of the AAA LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) study, a multi-year research program to better understand and meet the safety and mobility needs of older drivers in the United States.
Past AAA Foundation research has found that many older adults limit their driving, or self-regulate, to daytime, short trips, or familiar locations due to health issues and it can lead to an overall decline in life satisfaction.
“Cutting back on driving may threaten older drivers’ sense of independence and may complicate their ability to run errands, keep medical appointments, or visit friends,” said AAA Traffic Safety Advocacy Project Manager Rhonda Shah. “Just like planning for financial and healthcare needs in retirement, there are many benefits to planning ahead for the day when it makes sense to limit or stop driving.”
While self-regulation may seem like a good solution to allow older drivers to continue driving safely, some changes can create unintended consequences on the roadway. For example, using side streets to avoid the freeway can increase an older drivers’ risk of a crash by increasing the distance traveled and his/her exposure on the road.
AAA suggests older drivers and their families speak with their physicians in addition to exploring alternative forms of transportation and recognize that these options may complement their driving. Transportation alternatives vary from city to city, so AAA suggests the following:
- Carpooling – Sharing a ride with friends or neighbors is one way for older adults who limit driving.
- Public Transportation – When available, city buses, light rail and subway systems are great ways to get around. By planning ahead, an older driver can build up a comfort level with public transportation services to prepare for a time when he or she may have to limit or stop driving.
- Local Transportation Services – If the cost of a taxi or difficulty walking to a bus stop is an obstacle to using public transit, an older adult could benefit from using low-cost, community-based informal transportation services called supplemental transportation programs.
- Ridesharing – If the older adult has a smartphone, they can download a rideshare app to help with local transportation.
Initiating a conversation about safe driving with an older driver, especially a parent, is challenging for most people. While there is no simple or easy way to address the subject, AAA is here to help. Visit seniordriving.aaa.com for some important tips.
About LongROAD: Recognizing that lifestyle changes, and innovative technologies and medical advancements will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety launched a ground-breaking, multi-year research program to more fully understand and meet the safety and mobility needs of older drivers in the United States. The AAA LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) study is one of the largest and most comprehensive databases available on senior drivers incorporating 2,990 participants being followed for five years. It will support in-depth studies of senior driving and mobility to better understand risks and develop effective countermeasures.
The research was performed at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health with support from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
About AAA: AAA provides more than 60 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and more than 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.