Older adults with discomfort or low confidence while driving are adjusting their driving patterns to avoid driving at night, on the freeway, in afternoon rush hour traffic, or in unfamiliar areas, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Some of the self-regulated changes older drivers make can be unnecessary and do not always improve safety. In order to extend their mobility and reduce risk on the road, AAA recommends older drivers consult a healthcare professional when feelings of driving discomfort arise.
“There are challenges that we all face as we age, but many of them don’t necessarily mean it’s time to give up the keys just yet,” said Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs, AAA East Central. “The sooner you address discomfort behind the wheel, the sooner you can learn about strategies and technologies to help you compensate.”
Researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) to evaluate how an older drivers’ (ages 65-79) comfort level on the road affects their driving behaviors. Using GPS data to track driving patterns, they found that older drivers who report lower comfort in the four aforementioned situations also self-regulated their behavior to reduce or avoid driving in those situations. While self-regulation is often the best 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 also increase an older drivers’ risk of a crash by increasing the distance traveled and their exposure on the road.
When older drivers begin to experience physical changes to the body or feelings of driving discomfort, AAA recommends:
Talk About It: Visit a doctor or occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialist to determine the cause of your discomfort and evaluate potential solutions.
Educate Yourself: You can evaluate your driving performance using tools like AAA’s Driver65Plus to determine your strengths and weaknesses and learn ways to improve your driving.
Make Changes: Once you know the cause of your discomfort, make needed vehicle adjustments. Free programs like CarFit can help older drivers learn about changes they can make to their vehicle to better fit their needs.
For more information on AAA resources for older drivers, visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 78 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members. News releases are available at news.eastcentral.aaa.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.