Older Driver Safety

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week


Older Driver Safety Awareness Week 2013

Originated by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), take advantage of AAA’s resources, including science-based tools and programs, to navigate the issues associated with senior safety and mobility.

Throughout Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (December 1-5, 2014), AAA will highlight different aspects of older driver safety and aim to promote the importance mobility and transportation play in ensuring older adults remain active in their communities. Dates and topics include:


 

Monday, December 1: Identifying Changes That Can Affect Driving

Visual, cognitive and movement impairments can occur at any age, making it more difficult to drive. However, as people age, these medical conditions that affect driving become more prevalent.

Common conditions that accompany aging include cataracts, glaucoma, arthritis, and joint pain. These conditions don’t have to keep drivers off the roads. Individuals can use AAA’s science-based tools to adapt to these changes and improve their safety and comfort behind the wheel.

AAA recommends that drivers contact professionals called Occupational Therapy-Driver Rehabilitation Specialists for a comprehensive driving evaluation. These assessments can identify areas for improvement to increase driver safety and keep individuals on the road.

Available AAA Resources:

  • Smart Features for Older Drivers – In partnership with the University of Florida’s Institute for Mobility, Activity, and Participation, AAA developed a guide that identifies vehicle features that can help drivers accommodate common visual, physical and mental changes that frequently accompany aging. The guide is accompanied by a vehicle listing that highlights the presence of the suggested features in over 200 top-selling vehicles. An interactive version can be found online, and the printable brochure and vehicle listing are found at www.seniordriving.aaa.com.
  • Roadwise Rx – Developed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Roadwise Rx is a free online tool that enables users to check how prescription and over-the-counter medications can affect driving. The confidential results can be saved to a home computer and printed to share with one’s health care provider or pharmacist.
  • CarFit – The CarFit program is designed to improve the “fit” between older drivers and their vehicles to enhance comfort and safety behind the wheel. Developed in collaboration with AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association, the program provides an opportunity to open a positive, non-threatening conversation about older driver safety and wellness. CarFit offers specific, practical pointers to help older drivers maintain and enhance their wellness to extend their safe, independent driving years. Search for a free CarFit event in your area with the CarFit Locator.
  • AAA’s Driver Improvement Course (DIP)—AAA’sAAA’s new RoadWise Driver course for seniors can help you keep your skills fresh and get the most out of your vehicle. And applying what you learn could reduce risk to you, your passengers and others on the road. The course—offered online or in a classroom setting—is packed with the most up-to-date driving techniques and information on the latest vehicle technologies. This could help you maintain your mobile independence and quality of life. Contact your local AAA Club for more information.
  • Driving Tips for Seniors — This video explores how changes in vision can affect night time driving and driving in inclement weather.

Back to Top


Tuesday, December 2: Family Conversations

Family and friends play a major role in discussions about older driver safety, and we now recognize the importance of starting these conversations earlier. For many seniors, conversations about continued safe driving can spark strong emotional reactions, such as concerns about personal independence and competence. Fortunately, these conversations also can be opportunities for good communication and problem-solving. Most people want to keep driving for as long as possible. The earlier you discuss the potential changes associated with aging, the more likely you and your loved ones can agree to the plan of action that works best. By beginning the conversation about potential changes in driving habits before it becomes a problem, it allows older drivers to be actively involved in the planning.

Decisions about when independent driving may no longer be a safe option often involve many people – most important, the older driver. To overcome resistance, consider discussing the issue with the driver’s spouse, other family members and a health care professional, such as a doctor or driver rehabilitation specialist. Having another credible voice may help in resolving these issues.

Available AAA Resources:

  • SeniorDriving.AAA.com – This website provides expert advice about how aging affects one’s ability to drive safely. Users also will find a step-by-step guide on how to begin a conversation with an older driver about the need to work together on an action plan for maintaining mobility. Additionally, users will find a variety of tools and resources, from educational brochures and driver improvement courses, to skills assessment tools and free community-based programs.
  • How to Help an Older Driver – This booklet from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety provides a helpful framework as you search together to learn how to preserve your loved one’s personal freedom and mobility, while ensuring their safety and the safety of other road users./li>
  • Older Driver Planning Agreement– This tool helps families plan together for future changes in driving abilities before it becomes a concern. It allows older adults to actively be a part of the discussion about the changes they will make, and provides families with a guide for continuing to meet the mobility needs of their loved ones.

Back to Top


Wednesday, December 3: Screening & Evaluation

Following a family conversation, an older driver may decide that it is time to get a check-up for his or her driving fitness. Driving is a complex activity that requires certain physical, visual and cognitive abilities. As people age, those abilities often change in subtle ways. Most of us go to the doctor for regular physical check-ups. It’s just as important to get a check-up for driving fitness.

Many driving fitness evaluations are paper- or computer-based self-assessment tools. These can be useful in helping identify potential challenges to your driving health. However, if you’re concerned about the results of self-screening tools, you might consider a more formal and comprehensive clinic- and road-based assessment program provided by, for example, an occupational therapy driving rehabilitation specialist.

Available AAA Resources:

  • AAA Roadwise Review: This scientifically-validated tool was developed by AAA and noted safety researchers to enable older drivers to identify and address physiological changes that could affect driving. The tool is available online at no charge to you.
  • Drivers 65 Plus: Check Your Own Performance – Prepared by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, this is a free self-rating form of questions, facts and suggestions for safe driving. It’s offered in a printable format.

Back to Top


Thursday, December 4: Driving Equipment and Adaptations

Our ability to drive encompasses our knowledge and experience, along with visual, physical and mental capabilities. While our knowledge and experience continue to expand, we have to adapt to changes in our vision, physical health and mental capabilities to remain safe, responsible drivers.

There are multiple steps individuals can take to drive for as long as safely possible. Several involve the use of senior-friendly vehicle features and (aftermarket) adaptive driving equipment.

Common conditions that accompany aging include cataracts, glaucoma, arthritis, and joint pain. These conditions don’t have to keep drivers off the roads. Individuals can use AAA’s science-based tools to adapt to these changes and improve their safety and comfort behind the wheel.

Available AAA Resources:

  • In partnership with the University of Florida’s Institute for Mobility, Activity, and Participation, AAA developed a guide that identifies vehicle features that can help drivers accommodate common visual, physical and mental changes that frequently accompany aging. The guide is accompanied by a vehicle listing that highlights the presence of the suggested features in over 200 top-selling vehicles. An interactive version can be found online, and the printable brochure and vehicle listing are found at www.seniordriving.aaa.com.
  • CarFit – The CarFit program is designed to improve the “fit” between older drivers and their vehicles to enhance comfort and safety behind the wheel. Developed in collaboration with the, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association, the program provides an opportunity to open a positive, non-threatening conversation about older driver safety and wellness. CarFit offers specific, practical pointers to help older drivers maintain and enhance their wellness to extend their safe, independent driving years. Search for a free CarFit event in your area with the CarFit Locator.

Back to Top


Friday, December 5: Taking Changes in Stride

The ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional, and mental conditions. Although changes take place as a part of normal aging, these changes occur individually and at different times. To be knowledgeable and make wise choices about driving health, we must be attentive and know the warning signs. A driver’s chronological age is not a good predictor of driving ability. What counts on the road is performance. Having a series of minor crashes or near misses; getting lost on familiar roads; and being spoken to about your driving by police, family, and friends are a few signs of diminished capacity for safe driving.

Although many older drivers prefer to ask family and friends to help them get around, alternative transportation options do exist. Most communities around the country offer other choices ranging from public transportation (e.g. the bus or taxi systems) to specialized programs for persons with identified needs such as para-transit and medical transport services. Some of these are paid services; others rely on unpaid volunteers.

Early planning is key. Finding out more about your local resources—even before you need them—can help keep you connected to your community and keep you participating in those activities that are important to you.

Available AAA Resources:

  • Older and Wiser Driver – Designed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, this brochure highlights important factors related to the safe driving ability of all drivers, but especially older drivers. Recommendations to help drivers compensate for these changes also are included.
  • Older Driver Planning Agreement– This tool helps families plan together for future changes in driving abilities before it becomes a concern. It allows older adults to actively be a part of the discussion about the changes they will make, and provides families with a guide for continuing to meet the mobility needs of their loved ones.
  • AAA’s Driver Improvement Course (DIP): AAA’s new RoadWise Driver course for seniors can help you keep your skills fresh and get the most out of your vehicle. And applying what you learn could reduce risk to you, your passengers and others on the road. The course—offered online or in a classroom setting—is packed with the most up-to-date driving techniques and information on the latest vehicle technologies. This could help you maintain your mobile independence and quality of life. Contact your local AAA Club for more information.

Information about Supplemental Transportation Programs (STPs) – STPs are designed to provide much needed transportation to seniors who need rides but cannot access usual transportation services. The problem is especially acute for those in the 85+ age group. This age group is more likely than other older adults to be at risk for disability and chronic conditions and have a greater need for medical care, rehabilitation, social services, and physical support. Contact your local AAA club or visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com/map to locate transportation options in your community.