Tips for Families When Talking With Older Drivers About Safe Driving

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May is Older Americans Month—the perfect opportunity for families with older drivers to talk about safe driving and help ensure loved ones can stay active and mobile as they age.

— an announcement from AAA Northeast

The United States population is increasingly getting older: between 2013 and 2023, the number of adults aged 65 and older increased by 34 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Meanwhile, in 2022, there were more than 51 million licensed drivers aged 65 and up—an increase of 20 million since 2000, according to the latest statistics from the Federal Highway Administration. In Connecticut, there were 590,000 licensed drivers age 65+, including 124,000 drivers age 80+.

While AAA research shows that older drivers are less likely to engage in risky driving behaviors such as speeding or driving while impaired, seniors — particularly those over 80 years old — are more frail and more vulnerable to serious or fatal injuries in crashes.

Talking about safe driving with older family members can be difficult, especially when the conversation broaches the topic of eventually hanging up the keys for good. AAA recommends families start talking about safe driving when seniors are still driving safely and before any incidents occur.

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“For many seniors, the ability to drive is essential for staying socially engaged and active,” said Alec Slatky, Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Northeast.

“Families can extend a senior’s driving career with an assortment of effective strategies, such as avoiding trips at night or during rush hour, or not driving in bad weather. And when it comes time for a senior to retire from driving, a family that plans together can ensure their loved one’s quality of life remains intact.”

AAA offers the following tips for families to share with senior drivers:

  • Review new technologies: Today’s new vehicles are often equipped with a variety of safety features, from lane keeping assistance to adaptive cruise control. Review your car’s manual or watch video tutorials to ensure you’re comfortable with how these systems work.
  • Monitor your health: Various medical conditions, eyesight problems, or memory issues can make driving more challenging, and some medications can impair driving ability. Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about your safety on the road given your unique medical history.
  • Adjust your driving habits when necessary: Some seniors may only drive in the day, avoid highways, or make three right turns instead of an unprotected left turn. Families should discuss the best strategies to keep an older driver safe behind the wheel. Before a trip, review maps and plan less challenging routes.
  • Wear your seatbelt: Wearing a seatbelt is the best protection you can give yourself in the event of a crash.

When it’s time to talk about retiring from driving, AAA recommends that families:

  • Don’t ambush: Abruptly taking keys away from an older driver can backfire. Start the conversation before warning signs appear, such as damage to a vehicle that the senior was not aware of, or an older driver getting lost in places they’ve frequented in the past.
  • Enlist help: Older drivers might resist the conversation with their adult children. Sometimes, a trusted member of the community like a family doctor can help steer the discussion into productivity.
  • Plan for future mobility: Knowing how a senior will get to doctors’ appointments and social gatherings makes the conversation much easier. AAA offers a Senior Mobility Planning Toolkit to help families identify local transportation resources and actively plan for their future.

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