Three Myths about Aging and Driving

Myth 1:
All older drivers are bad drivers.
The Truth:
As a group, older drivers are relatively  safe drivers.
With greater maturity, experience and good judgment, older drivers are most often safe drivers. While they do have more accidents per mile driven, especially after age 75, older drivers have fewer accidents overall – testimony to the
decision by many to limit their own driving.
It is true that older adults (including passengers and pedestrians) are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in accidents – but this is mainly because aging bodies are more vulnerable. An accident that a 30-year-old might walk away from with only minor injuries could result in death for an 80-year-old.
While we should all be concerned about the frequency of crash fatalities of older drivers, this should not be mistaken as proof that older drivers are dangerous. In fact, older drivers are more dangerous to themselves than to others.
This increased danger underscores how important it is for older adults to drive more carefully and cautiously; your stakes are higher – you have much more to lose if you’re in an accident.

Myth 2:
At a certain age, everyone will have to stop driving.
The Truth:
Age does not determine whether a person will have to stop driving. Safe driving is about health and ability – not age.
Two people who are the same age can have very different skills and abilities to drive safely. For example, the differences in skills between two 75-year-old drivers can be great – and much of that difference can be attributed to differences in fitness and health.
Few members of past generations, who had shorter lives and experienced greater health problems, even considered the possibility that they might be able to keep driving well into old age. Today, as we live longer and healthier lives, we want to stay mobile and involved – and continuing to drive becomes important to our ability to do that.
Studying the potential and the limitations of older drivers is relatively new in our society. As this science evolves, we are learning more and more about ways to keep drivers safe. For example, we now know that many people who have stopped driving (often after a health event) may be able to regain their ability to drive safely.

Myth 3:
When older drivers have difficulties with driving, they don’t want families involved.
The Truth:
If someone needs to talk to them about their driving, many older drivers would prefer to hear from a spouse or children.
If a spouse or other family member feels that an older driver is no longer safe, it’s time for a conversation. Limiting or stopping driving can be a very emotional topic for all involved. In research conducted by The Hartford and the
MIT AgeLab, older drivers expressed their preference for who should speak with them about their driving, if it becomes necessary. We found that:
• Married couples prefer to hear from a spouse or adult children. Outside the family, doctors are their top preference.
• Single older adults prefer to hear from doctors, closely followed by adult children.
• Most older adults put law-enforcement officials and other authorities low on the list.
For the conversation to be successful, it is also important that it be factual and well-planned.

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