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Keeping senior drivers safer

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Posted: Friday, February 12, 2010 12:00 am

Many people assume that older drivers aren’t the safest drivers, but in fact, this is not true. Drivers aged 65 or older comprise about 14 percent of the driving population, but account for less than 7 percent of all crashes. These drivers are often the safest and most experienced – they are less likely to drive under the influence of alcohol, they don’t usually speed or engage in distracting activities while driving, such as texting or talking on the phone, and they don’t usually drive late at night.

However, our roads are definitely getting grayer. By 2030, more than 70 million Americans will be 65 years of age or older and nearly 90 percent of this population will be licensed to drive. While AAA maintains that driving is a function of ability, not age, we also understand that as people age, their ability to navigate the roads safely can be compromised.

In order to keep the roads safer for everyone, AAA has put together resources and tools for seniors to consider when evaluating their driving abilities:

• Learn how aging can affect driving ability and what warning signs to watch out for. AAA holds free “Keeping the Keys” workshops to educate and inform mature drivers and their families on the effects that age can have on their driving, and ways to maintain their mobility.

• Make sure the car is a proper “fit.” CarFit is an assessment that offers mature drivers the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicle “fits” them. At the assessment, trained technicians check to see that motorists have a clear line of sight, properly adjusted headrests, easy access to the gas and brake pedals and more.

• Assess and improve driving skills through an online, in-person or computer-based assessment. “Roadwise Review” is a CD-ROM that measures the functional abilities shown to be the strongest predictors of crash risk among senior drivers. Many insurance companies offer discounts to senior drivers who complete approved driving evaluations. DriveSharp is a computer software program that focuses on the visual systems in the brain that are essential to safe driving, strengthening the brain’s ability to process so that motorists can focus better, keep track of more on the road and react faster while driving.

• Check with a medical professional regarding over-the-counter and prescription medication. Warning labels on medications may indicate whether side effects affect driving ability.

• Exercise regularly to improve muscle strength and strengthen heart and lungs. Range of motion and flexibility will also be improved.

The decision to drive or not to drive for a senior will often be a difficult choice. By becoming informed ahead of time, seniors and their families will be better prepared to make these decisions.

For more information on aging drivers, visit www.aaaaz.com/seniordrivers.htm.

 

Linda Gorman is the public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650.2716 or lgorman@arizona.aaa.com.

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