Older Driver Safety Awareness Week: December 5-9

December 6, 2011

The facts are clear and they’re quite startling. Dubbed the “silver tsunami” by the American Automobile Association (AAA), the first wave of Baby Boomers is turning 65 this year and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the senior population segment will increase over 75 percent over the next 20 years.

Since many will live an average of seven to 10 years after their ability to drive safely, one of the issues facing older drivers and their families is how to address the very real challenges associated with aging and driving.

Think about all those older drivers on the road. Are they capable enough to still be driving? But the thought of giving up personal independence and not being able to manage day-to-day activities are concerns that provoke strong emotional reactions from older drivers. The older they get, the more sensitive the subject is likely to become.

During Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, December 5-9, the AAA is promoting the importance of communication between older drivers and their families, so that they’ll be able to safely navigate the issue.

Each day this week, the AAA will highlight different aspects of older driver safety. Today’s topic is on family conversations. Along with how to get started on discussing the issue of how long your older loved one can and should continue driving are links to resources, including SeniorDriving.AAA.com and a booklet from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, How to Help an Older Driver. Your loved one’s deteriorating vision, decreased reaction time, any medications he or she takes, even how to choose the right car are points to keep in mind when broaching the subject.

The topics for the balance of the week include:

  • December 6 – Screening and Evaluation
  • December 7 – Driving Equipment and Adaptations
  • December 8 – Taking Changes in Stride
  • December 9 – Life After Driving

Other AAA resources available for older drivers include the AAA Roadwise Review, a computer-based self-screening to assess a driver’s functional abilities important to safe driving; CarFit and AAA’s Smart Features for Mature Drivers; and Safe Driving for Mature Operators, classroom and online courses providing driver training to help address changes caused by aging and how long a driver may be able to compensate.

Mature Driver

Mature Driver

Enlarge Photo

Tips for getting the conversation started

Tips for getting started with the conversation include:

  • Start early, before your older loved one’s driving skills are negatively impacted.
  • Be prepared for some pushback.
  • Keep safety as your main objective.
  • Be prepared to provide concrete examples of declining ability or encourage skills-assessment testing.
  • Be ready to address how to overcome shortcomings, perhaps by making small adjustments, such as driving only during the day or not driving on the highway. A driver’s improvement course may also be beneficial.
  • When it is clearly time for your loved one to stop driving, offer alternative means of transportation.

Originally created by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), Older Driver Safety Awareness Week promotes awareness about the importance of safe mobility and transportation for older adults and action to keep them mobile and active in their communities.

For another look at this issue, see TheCarConnection article, When Should Older Drivers Hand  Over the Keys?

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