Despite Popular Belief, Most Senior Drivers Buckle up, Practice Good Driving Habits, and Seek to Improve Skills- Especially Older Women
HAMILTON, NJ, – 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.
“Senior drivers are often unfairly dubbed as risky and dangerous. This data tells 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 Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. 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 drivers and their vehicles through a twelve-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.
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 twelve-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.”
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 Noble. “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.”
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. AAA.com/SeniorDriving 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.
In addition to CarFit, AAA Mid-Atlantic is helping New Jersey seniors stay active by driving safer and longer, and improving their skills through online and classroom-based courses. These state-certified courses will qualify for insurance discounts which are good for 3 years after course completion; check with your insurance company or agent for specifics. Course dates and locations are available at AAA.com.