AAA: Most seniors don’t talk about when to give up driving

Nearly 83 percent of older drivers report never speaking to a family member or physician about their safe-driving ability, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. And of the small percentage of families that do have the often difficult conversation, 15 percent do so after a crash or traffic infraction, which could be too late since older drivers are at greater risk of death and injury if involved in a crash, researchers say.
In 2016, more than 200,000 drivers 65 and older were injured in a traffic crash and more than 3,500 were killed. With seniors outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of seven to 10 years, AAA urges seniors to begin planning for “driving retirement” at the same time they begin planning for retirement from work, said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety.
“The right time to stop driving varies for everyone,” Yang said. “With early discussion and proper planning, elderly drivers may extend their time on the road.”
The report is the latest from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Researchers found that only 17 percent of older drivers report ever speaking with a family member or physician about driving safety. The most commonly cited reasons for having the discussion include safety concerns such as falling asleep while driving or trouble staying in lanes, health issues, and traffic tickets or accidents.
AAA recommends that families avoid waiting until there are “red flags” and to do the following when talking to an older driver:
• Do it early and talk often, and be positive and supportive. Avoid generalizations or jumping to conclusions about an older driver’s skills or abilities.
• Speak one-on-one (inviting the whole family to the conversation can create feelings of alienation or anger).
• Focus on the facts. Stick to information you know, like a medical condition or medication regimen that might make driving unsafe.
• Let the older driver have an active role in planning for quitting driving.
“The best time to initiate a discussion with a loved one about staying mobile without a set of car keys is before you suspect there is a problem,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “Planning for personal mobility and independence should be done shoulder to shoulder with the older driver. Talking sooner, rather than later, can help set mutual expectations and reduce safety issues or emotional reactions down the line.”
Nelson noted that families can use the AAA Driver Planning Agreement as a guide. The agreement allows families to plan together for future changes in driving abilities before they become a concern, he said, adding more information is available at
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, charitable research and education organization with a goal of helping prevent traffic deaths and injuries.
AAA Washington, which is based in Bellevue, has 1.1 million members.