In spite of statistics that show the oldest drivers have some of the highest accident-fatality rates, new data from a survey of 7,972 seniors suggests that older drivers are getting better at safer driving.
Among seniors surveyed, nine in 10 buckle up when they get in the driver’s seat and more than a third have taken driver improvement courses.
With 35 million licensed drivers age 65 and older in the United States in 2011 and more than 10,000 people turning 65 every day, considerations about older driver safety and safe driving behavior are gaining increasing attention.
The survey findings showing older drivers demonstrating safe driving behavior were collected by AAA, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and AARP. Survey respondents were participants in CarFit, a free program offered by the three organizations.
Other data points of interest:
- Twice the number of women have taken driver improvement courses, despite the fact that more older men drive
- 52 percent of older drivers drive seven days a week
During the survey period (354 CarFit events conducted from January 2007 through November 2010), the following top challenges for a “car fit” were identified:
- Improper distance from the steering wheel
- Adequate position of the vehicle’s side view mirrors
- Improper seat height
- Improper head restraint
Senior driver backing up - AAA Foundation for Traffic SafetyEnlarge Photo
Earlier research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (released in November 2012) found that older drivers have the highest rates of death compared to other drivers, largely due to their inability to survive a crash. That same research found, conversely, that there were significant gains in overall motorists’ safety during the past decade.
Specifically, while crashes per mile driven decreased for drivers of all ages between 1995 and 2010 by 28 percent, the biggest decreases were among drivers ages 75 to 79 (down 42 percent), and a 40-percent decrease in drivers ages 80 to 84.
Traffic fatalities among older drivers decreasing
In Traffic Safety Facts: Older Population (2011 Data), a publication from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released in April 2013, in 2011, 17 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States were among people age 65 and older. The group also represented eight percent of all people injured in traffic accidents that year. The report said that compared to 2010, fatalities and injured persons among those age 65 and older decreased by two percent.
In 2011, fatal crash driver involvement rates per 100,000 population among older male drivers was highest--at a rate of 24.18 for the 85-and-older age group. Among older female drivers, it was highest in the 80 to 84 age group (a rate of 8.01).
Another recently released study from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HF/E) found driver retraining to be an effective strategy for improving the safe driving habits of healthy older drivers (ages 70 to 89) over the long term.
View a copy of the complete AAA survey results (PDF) here.
More information on the AAA’s resources for senior drivers is available at SeniorDriving.AAA.com.