New Older Driver Data Trends in Upward Direction

New report from AAA Foundation reveals increase in driving years, habits and medication use.

Son drives senior mom weating seatbelts

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., (May 8, 2014) –  According to a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, older Americans are extending their time behind the wheel compared to previous generations.  For example, 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 ages 65 and older. This new research shows an increased of auto-mobility of older drivers traveling about 20 percent more in trips and a 33 percent increase in miles driven between 1990 and 2009.

While there is greater mobility for the silver tsunami, the Understanding Older Drivers: An Examination of Medical Conditions, Medication Use and Travel Behaviors report reveals that 90 percent of older drivers also use prescription medications with two-thirds taking multiple medications. Previous 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.”

The report also reveals gender differences when it comes to medication-use behind the wheel.  Older women that use medications are more likely to regulate their driving compared to men and, even without a medical condition. Female drivers drive less than their male counterparts with a medical condition.

Additional key highlights from the report include:

  • 25 percent of men and 18 percent of women remain in the workforce after age 65, resulting in more than double the work-related commutes for drivers 65 and older compared to 20 years ago.
  • 68 percent drivers age 85 or older report driving five or more days per week.
  • Three-quarters of drivers ages 65 and older with a medical condition report reduced daily driving.
  • Self-regulatory behavior, among those taking multiple medications or having a medical condition, declines with increasing income.  Female drivers ages 65-69 with an annual income under $13,000 were 62 percent more likely to restrict nighttime driving than women with incomes over $70,000.

Knowing that medication use is very high among senior drivers, the AAA Foundation and AAA developed confidential, educational tools such as Roadwise Rx to help seniors and their families understand common side-effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and foods.

“AAA’s Roadwise Rx is an online tool that generates personalized feedback about how these interactions between prescription and over-the-counter medicines as well as herbal supplements can impact safety behind the wheel,” said Georjeane Blumling, Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA Tidewater. “Drivers are encouraged to discuss the confidential results with their doctor or pharmacist to learn how to mitigate possible crash risks.” To access all the free resources AAA offers to senior drivers, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

The AAA Foundation study primarily analyzed the most recent data from two national databases - the 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) and the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS).

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As part of North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA Tidewater Virginia provides its more than 325,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding AAA Tidewater Virginia has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.  For more information, visit AAA.com and follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/AAATidewaterVA or on Facebook at facebook.com/AAATidewaterVirginia