The majority of older people are active drivers today. In 2011, well over 86 percent of people 65 and older were drivers. That means that more than one out of six drivers on the road in the United States are 65 and older. Most older people are safe drivers, but as they age they may experience more crashes and suffer higher injury and fatality risks.
The AAA Foundation has embarked on a long-term study of older drivers that aims to answer key questions about medical conditions, medication usage, travel behaviors, and mobility options for seniors who no longer drive.
Key Findings – Licensing and Travel Patterns
Older drivers are an active group:
• Over 75% of male drivers and 60% of female drivers over age 85 drove five or more days per week; and
• Among the same group, fewer than 5% of men and 10% of women drove less than once a week.
Licensing rates have increased sharply among older drivers:
• In the early 1970s, barely half of all Americans ages 65 and older had licenses;
• By 2010, this had increased to almost 84%.
Between 1990 and 2009, every measure indicates increased automobility of older drivers:
• Daily travel patterns for drivers 65+ indicate more trips, more miles driven, and more time spent driving in 2009 than 1990.
Key Findings – Medical Conditions and Medication Use
Older drivers are significantly more likely to report a medical condition than younger drivers:
• Drivers ages 65–69 are twice as likely to report having a medical condition as drivers 24–64.
Medication use is very high among older drivers:
• Over 90% of older drivers take prescription medications; and
• Of those who take any medication, over two-thirds take multiple medications.
Gender differences are extremely large in all aspects of medication use, travel behavior, and driving self-regulation among motorists ages 65 and older:
• Women without a medical condition drive less than men with a medical condition;
• Women drivers who use medications or who have a medical condition are more likely to self-regulate their driving than are comparable men; and
• Women are more likely to report having a medical condition and using multiple medications.
Older drivers who report using medications or having a medical condition are more likely to self-regulate their driving behavior:
• Three-quarters of drivers ages 65 and older who have a medical condition report reduced daily travel;
• Older drivers using medications avoid night driving at double the rate of drivers ages 24–64; and
• Older drivers using medications drive fewer days each week.
Income appears to play a role in ways that warrant future research:
• Self-regulatory behavior declines with increasing income among people taking multiple medications or who have a medical condition; and
• Women drivers ages 65–69 with incomes under $13,000 were 62% more likely to restrict nighttime driving than women of the same age with incomes over $70,000.
For more information on this study and the AAA Foundation’s other senior safety research and materials, please visit AAAFoundation.org.