Older Men Suffer More When Driving Decreases, Study Finds

Older Men Suffer More When Driving Decreases, Study Finds
Senior couple
Credit: AAA
It�s something we�re all going to face at some point. The need to stop driving as much, or at all, as we get older. Reasons include medical conditions that come up as we age that may make driving unsafe.

As Car Pro Show Host Jerry Reynolds has addressed before, taking the keys from a parent can be difficult, as it means a loss of their freedom and independence. We�re now finding out it may also have more of an impact on men than women, according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In a recent study of men and women over the age of 65 who reduced their driving in the past year, AAA researchers found that men to be most impacted more by that loss of independence, freedom and resulting social support. They say that compared to women, men reported lower levels of social support when it comes to advice, suggestions and information about issues they may be facing.

Since driving is tied closely with independence, AAA recommends that families with older loved ones plan ahead together, especially when it comes to important decisions like limiting driving and putting reliable informational resources in place.

�When it comes to older drivers, data from our study suggests there are perceived social support differences between older male and female drivers,� said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. �Men and women who have reduced their driving report similar levels of care and emotional support from friends and family, but older male drivers find it harder to seek out advice and guidance.�

Of the study�s 2,990 participants: 1 in 5 older drivers reported reducing their driving in the past year, with more women, 57%, than men, 43%, saying they had cut back on driving. - Source: AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety

The recent findings are part of the AAA LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) study, a multi-year research program focused on safety and mobility needs of older drivers in the United States.

In its press release, AAA says its past research has found that many older adults limit their driving, or self-regulate, to daytime, short trips, or familiar locations due to health issues and it can lead to an overall decline in life satisfaction.

�Cutting back on driving may threaten older drivers� sense of independence and may complicate their ability to run errands, keep medical appointments, or visit friends,� said AAA Traffic Safety Advocacy Project Manager Rhonda Shah. �Just like planning for financial and healthcare needs in retirement, there are many benefits to planning ahead for the day when it makes sense to limit or stop driving.�

While self-regulation may seem like a good solution to allow older drivers to continue driving safely, some changes can create unintended consequences on the roadway. For example, using side streets to avoid the freeway can increase an older drivers� risk of a crash by increasing the distance traveled and his/her exposure on the road.

AAA suggests older drivers and their families speak with their physicians in addition to exploring alternative forms of transportation and recognize that these options may complement their driving.
Transportation alternatives vary from city to city, so AAA suggests the following:

  • Carpooling � Sharing a ride with friends or neighbors is one way for older adults who limit driving.
  • Public Transportation � When available, city buses, light rail and subway systems are great ways to get around. By planning ahead, an older driver can build up a comfort level with public transportation services to prepare for a time when he or she may have to limit or stop driving.
  • Local Transportation Services � If the cost of a taxi or difficulty walking to a bus stop is an obstacle to using public transit, an older adult could benefit from using low-cost, community-based informal transportation services called supplemental transportation programs.
  • Ridesharing � If the older adult has a smartphone, they can download a rideshare app to help with local transportation.

Initiating a conversation about safe driving with an older driver, especially a parent, is challenging for most people.

AAA offers a self-rating tool for driver�s over the age of 65 here.