Extending Mobility for Older Drivers

According to a 2019 AAA Foundation Study, building confidence through driving modifications may be the key to safely extending mobility for older adults.
Meredith Terpstra

Do you know an older adult who has changed their driving patterns and routines because they no longer feel comfortable behind the wheel? AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute set out to discover how drivers’ comfort levels affect their driving behaviors. They found that drivers who were less confident driving at night, on the highway, during rush hour traffic or in unfamiliar areas simply avoided those situations by adjusting their driving patterns or reducing trips.

While self-regulation is a reasonable and responsible choice for drivers who feel uncomfortable behind the wheel in certain situations, mobility experts say it is not the only option. Speaking with a physician about ways to eliminate some of the physical discomforts and apprehension an older driver may be experiencing can ultimately pave the way to safe driving once more.

“By addressing issues of discomfort early, older drivers can learn more about age-related changes to their body and discuss strategies with their health care provider to best compensate for any declines,” says Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Seniors can use tools offered by AAA like Driver65Plus to learn ways to sharpen driving skills. Additionally, an occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialist can help older drivers determine the cause of anxiety—and find solutions. If adjustments to the actual vehicle are needed, AAA also offers CarFit, a free program to help older drivers make changes to their cars to better fit their needs.

“Oftentimes, simple adjustments to your vehicle, a driving refresher course or a change to your prescription medications can improve comfort and safety behind the wheel. The key is to speak up about it,” says Rhonda Shah, AAA manager of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Community Impact.

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