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Road Retirement

Uncertainties about mobility, personal freedom loom large for seniors, according to recent AAA survey.
By Dennis R. Heinze

Nearly half of senior drivers worry about losing their freedom and mobility when it’s time to give up the car keys, according to a recent survey by AAA.


A recent AAA survey indicates that most senior drivers avoid situations, such as night driving, that would put them at risk behind the wheel. AAA Foundation photo

As 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day, AAA is helping aging drivers cope with the life-changing transitions facing the “silver tsunami” with expert advice and easy-to-find resources. Concerned by a loss of mobility, nearly 90 percent of senior drivers indicate that the inability to drive would be a problem, with almost half claiming it a serious problem.

“By 2020–just eight years from now–it’s estimated that nearly one in six people will be age 65 or older and most of them will still be licensed to drive,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “No matter how active and healthy seniors are today, it’s evident that anxiety about giving up the keys is still a top concern.”

Helping to dispel the all-too-common myth that seniors are dangerous drivers, AAA’s survey also indicates that motorists age 65 and older often “self-police” their driving or avoid driving situations that put them at greater risk of a crash. In fact, 80 percent of senior drivers voluntarily avoid one or more high-risk driving situations. More than half (61 percent) of these drivers don’t drive in bad weather; 50 percent avoid night driving; 42 percent shun trips in heavy traffic; and 37 percent avoid unfamiliar roads.

As a leading road safety advocate for 110 years, AAA continues to provide expert advice and helpful resources for older adults, their families and caregivers–working to support them as they tackle the challenge of balancing safety and mobility. The recently redesigned provides convenient, online access to a wealth of interactive tools and materials to help seniors stay safe behind the wheel as long as possible.

Content is delivered in a variety of formats, from quizzes, videos and Q&As, to slideshows and even unique brain fitness exercises shown to cut the risk of a traffic crash in half.

“Older adults need to consider how their health might affect their driving ability, and making an objective self-assessment can be tricky,” said Mike Right, vice president of AAA Public Affairs. “Aging affects people so gradually they often don’t realize how their capabilities may have changed over time.”

Today’s older Americans are healthier and more active than ever before, which is why, on average, seniors can expect to live for seven to 10 years beyond their ability to drive safely. While seniors can self-police their driving habits to remain safe, there will come a time when seniors likely have to hang up the keys for good, and the site can prepare seniors and their families for that day.

“For the first time in history, we must plan for our driving retirement just as we plan for our retirement from work,” added Right. “This is a critical issue for families throughout the country.”

Dennis R. Heinze is regional editor of AAA Southern Traveler.

Jul/Aug 2012 Issue

Every day since Jan. 1, 2011, more than 10,000 Americans have turned 65, a trend set to continue for the next 20 years as “baby boomers” become senior citizens.

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