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July/August 2014 Issue

Prescription drug use, increased driving could be risky combination for seniors

Older Americans are significantly extending their time behind the wheel compared to previous generations, according to a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and with nine in 10 older drivers using prescription medications, conditions are ripe for impaired driving.

According to the report, “Understanding Older Drivers: An Examination of Medical Conditions, Medication Use and Travel Behaviors,” 84 percent of Americans 65 and older held a driver’s license in 2010 compared to barely half in the early 1970s. Today, one in six drivers on U.S. roads is 65 or older, and this new research shows a 20-percent increase in trips and a 33-percent increase in miles traveled among older drivers between 1990 and 2009.

In addition to this upward trend in senior mobility, the report revealed that 90 percent of older drivers use prescription medications, with two-thirds taking multiple medications. Previous AAA Foundation research has shown that combinations of medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can result in an impairment in safe driving ability.

“This level of medication use does raise concerns, yet evidence indicates seniors are fairly cautious,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. “In fact, these findings show that older drivers using medications are more likely to regulate their driving–reducing daily travel, avoiding driving at night, or driving fewer days per week.”

Because medication use is high among senior drivers, the AAA Foundation developed confidential educational tools such as Roadwise Rx to help seniors and their families understand side effects of medications.

An online tool available at, Roadwise Rx generates personalized feedback about how these interactions can affect safety behind the wheel. Drivers can discuss the results with their doctor or pharmacist to learn how to mitigate crash risks.


The report found that two-thirds of senior drivers take multiple medications.


Owning, operating your vehicle just got a little cheaper

In its annual “Your Driving Costs” study, AAA found a 2.7 percent decrease in the cost to own and operate a sedan in the United States for 2014. The average cost fell 1.64 cents to 59.2 cents per mile, or $8,876 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving.

“Despite increases in maintenance and registration fees, American motorists are experiencing an overall decrease in the cost to own and operate a vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “A large decrease in fuel costs, and lower tire, insurance and depreciation expenses are saving owners more than one and a half cents on every mile they drive.”

In-depth findings of this year’s study, including a breakdown of specific costs by category of vehicle, are contained in the “Your Driving Costs” brochure, which is available free to members.

AAA’s annual analysis of how much motorists pay to drive is made up of two types of costs. Operating costs include such expenses as gas and maintenance, and ownership costs include insurance, licensing fees, depreciation, and taxes.

The brochure also includes driving costs for four-wheel-drive SUVs, which is 73.6 cents per mile, 3.7 cents less per mile than last year for a total of $11,039 for the year. Driving costs for minivans is 65.0 cents per mile, down .3 cents. It will cost $9,753 to own and operate a minivan this year. •

For a free copy of “Your Driving Costs,” send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to: AAA, “Your Driving Costs,” 12901 N. Forty Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63141. See the brochure online.

2014 driving costs


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