Despite the fact that they are more inclined to wear seat belts and abstain from such distractions as texting while driving, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claims that senior drivers are more likely to die in a car accident than any other age driver.
Of course individual circumstances vary, but with one-quarter of the nation’s drivers expected to be 65+ years old within the next decade, addressing the health and mobility concerns of aging drivers is imperative.
In an effort to tackle this issue, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is spearheading the most comprehensive U.S. study of senior drivers to date. Three-thousand drivers between the ages of 65 and 79 will be monitored by such prestigious organizations and universities as the Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD), Columbia University, the University of California in San Diego, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Colorado.
The vehicles of study subjects, who will be chosen from the patient base of medical clinics associated with each university, will be equipped with GPS units to record their driving behaviors. This data will be compared with each participant’s medical records. In addition, drivers will be interviewed about safety features on their vehicles, including blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control, to ascertain if they are beneficial or obstructive to older drivers.
The number of senior drivers who died in collisions in 2012 was 4,079- down by 31 percent from 1997, as reported by IIHS. The purpose of this new study is to analyze the behaviors, risks, and overall safety of senior drivers over the long term.
The fact remains, however, that, all other circumstances being equal, older drivers are four times more likely than a 20 year-old to die in a car accident. The American Automobile Association (AAA) cites “fragility” as a significant factor in these deaths. Medical conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, dementia, and side effects from certain medications are factors in senior drivers’ increased accident risk. Reduced bone and muscle mass contribute to their frailty- making them more vulnerable in an accident.
Senior Driver Assessment Tools
Several automobile safety organizations offer assessment tools to help seniors stay safe behind the wheel. AAA sponsors the CarFit program to assist seniors in optimizing the efficiency and safety of their mirror and seat set-up. Additionally, they offer the online quiz, Drivers 65+ Check Your Performance, where questions answered by seniors about their driving habits yield results such as “go,” “caution,” and “stop,” alerting drivers to unsafe habits they may be unwittingly participating in.
The AARP offers the Smart Driver course which gives senior drivers tips and tools to help them compensate for their age-related disadvantages. For loved ones of older drivers, AAA provides tools so that passengers can assess the skills of their elders.
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