Staying Safe on the Road During Your Golden Years

Older drivers can extend their years behind the wheel by addressing driving discomfort early on.
Meredith Terpstra

You Don't Have to Drive in Discomfort

Building confidence through retraining and implementing modifications may be the key to safer, extended mobility for older adults, according to a new study by AAA.

Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that older drivers who recognized their own lack of confidence behind the wheel adjusted their driving patterns or reduced trips to avoid distressing or nerve-wracking situations.

Self-Awareness is the First Step

Self-regulation is a reasonable and responsible choice for drivers who find themselves uncomfortable behind the wheel in certain situations. But, older drivers should remember to seek professional advice before letting their newfound changes in driving habits become the norm. Overregulation can lead to lost mobility and freedom.

“When older drivers become uncomfortable in certain driving situations, they may assume they have to live with the discomfort rather than proactively seeking help,” says Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “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.”

Avoidance Is Not Your Only Option

AAA Foundation researchers partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to discover how drivers’ comfort levels affected their driving behaviors. They found that drivers who were less confident driving at night, on the highway, in rush hour traffic or in unfamiliar areas simply avoided those situations.

Mobility experts say there are other options. “Don’t let these concerns limit your mobility or safety when your doctor may help you find ways to address them,” says Rhonda Shah, AAA manager of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Community Impact. Shah offers the following alternatives:

Options to Improve Comfort and Safety Behind the Wheel

  • Simple adjustments to your vehicle
  • A driver refresher course
  • A change to your prescription medications

Other options include working with an occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialist to help older drivers determine the cause of anxiety—and find solutions. Seniors can also use tools offered by AAA like Driver65Plus to determine strengths and weaknesses and learn ways to sharpen driving skills.

AAA CarFit Event in St. Louis Park

If adjustments to the actual vehicle are needed, AAA offers CarFit, a free program to help older drivers make changes to their cars to better fit their needs. This year’s CarFit event takes place on Sunday, May 3, at the AAA Minneapolis St. Louis Park headquarters parking lot. CarFit volunteers will include St. Catherine University occupational therapy students. The event is free, but appointments are required—call (952) 927-2602 to sign up. If that date is not convenient, you can find other events at

For more AAA resources for older drivers such as RoadWise courses online or in the classroom and other programs to help seniors, visit