Roughly 10,000 drivers turn 65 each day. The vast majority of those folks -- 82%, to be precise -- continue to drive, but according to a recent AAA study (PDF) most self-police their driving habits to avoid putting themselves and others in danger.
The AAA study was carried out last December via telephone interviews with 512 drivers aged 65 and older. Though the sampling isn't huge, the findings are interesting. Included in the results:
- 89% of seniors said that they would find it a problem if they lost the ability to drive. In fact, 39% said that it would be a "very serious problem".
- 80% of seniors avoided driving under certain conditions. The most common causes for concern were driving during inclement weather (avoided by 61% of respondents), driving at night (50%), and driving during heavy traffic (42%).
- Across the board, senior women were found to be significantly more cautious drivers than senior men. For example, while 46% of men age 65 and older said they avoided driving during bad weather, 75% of women said the same.
- Only 11% of women said that they drive no matter what the outside conditions may be, while 30% of men say the same.
Why does it matter?
AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet says that by the year 2020, "nearly one in six people will be age 65 or older and most of them will still be licensed to drive". Given plateauing birth rates in the U.S. and vast improvements in medical care, those statistics aren't likely to change much in the coming decades -- in fact, the percentage of older drivers could increase.
Of course, the problem of when to take the keys from older drivers is a controversial one -- one that many families must face. Based on the responses to the AAA survey, it sounds as if seniors are keenly aware of the public's concerns about their driving skills and may be trying to compensate.
But is it enough? Some studies indicate that older drivers are getting safer. Others argue that cautious drivers cause more accidents than they could ever prevent. Numerous projects and counseling initiatives have tried to address the problem, but when you're dealing with issues of respect, familial bonds, and human dignity, the answers are never clear-cut.
If you've got a senior in your family and you've been through this issue, drop us a line or leave a note in the comments below, letting us know how you resolved it. We're all ears.
For more on the study, check out this article at our sister site, Family Car Guide.