AAA Arizona says to forget the stereotype — statistics show senior drivers are among the safest on the road.
By 2030, an estimated one out of five drivers in the United States will be older than 65, and in honor of May’s Older Americans Month, AAA officials said they want to dispel some myths about older drivers.
“Though the natural changes that occur with age can have an adverse impact on one’s driving ability, decades of road experience makes older drivers’ statistically one of the safest groups on the road,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. “As an advocate for the motoring public, AAA believes it is important for senior drivers to learn how to compensate for those changes so that they can stay on the road longer and safer.”
AAA put together these myths and facts about older motorists:
• MYTH: The fewer older drivers, the safer the roadways
FACT: While there’s no such thing as the perfect driver, senior drivers tend to be safer drivers. In fact, ages 64 to 69 are statistically the safest drivers on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With their experience, seniors are less likely to drive distracted or impaired; tend to drive when conditions are safest; and don’t take as many risks, such as not driving at night.
• MYTH: Older drivers are resistant to changes in driving laws.
FACT: Though such laws as seat-belt use weren’t enacted for decades after many older drivers received their licenses, seniors are the most likely to buckle up — and therefore model safe driving habits to their passengers. In fact, 77 percent of older motor vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers) involved in fatal crashes were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, compared to 63 percent for adult occupants (18 to 64 years of age).
• MYTH: Aging makes most older adults high-risk drivers.
FACT: While specific abilities needed to drive safely, such as vision, memory, strength, reaction time and flexibility, decline as we age, the rate of change varies greatly. Many older drivers do not differ significantly from middle-age drivers in their driving skills. However, it’s important that senior drivers recognize changes as they age and take advantage of resources to help combat them, AAA officials said.
“A lot of misconceptions remain about older drivers,” Gorman said. “Through workshops, such as Safe Driving for Mature Drivers, AAA is working to educate motorists on the strengths and weaknesses of drivers of any age.”