AAA’s Report: Senior Drivers Are Safe, and Often Ready For Special Licensing

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There are certain vehicles that, as soon as you see them, you steer clear. Examples include cars with driving school signs strapped to their roofs, overloaded pickups just waiting to drop stuff into the road, and anything driven by a little old lady who looks more nervous than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Turns out, they know they might not be the best drivers and have no problem with the law deciding if they shouldn’t drive anymore.

A recent report from AAA showed that although senior drivers treasure the freedom that being able to drive provides, they’re in favor of laws that could make it tougher for them to keep their licenses as they get older. The study showed that 7 out of 10 drivers who are over the age of 65 were in favor of special licensing requirements for those over 75.

They were overwhelmingly in favor of laws that would require seniors to appear in person to renew their licenses and even laws that would require them to pass a medical screening to make sure they were still capable drivers. Seniors are in favor of tougher laws in general, not just for themselves. They support everything from tougher DUI laws to bans on using mobile phones behind the wheel.

The report showed that 65% of those over 75 never use their phones behind the wheel while the number dropped to 48% for those in the 65-69 age group. What’s not clear is how much of that is due to those older seniors being more cautious, or to their lack of adoption of mobile phones in general. You have to wonder if the numbers will change as the overall population ages and those who rely on their mobile phones eventually become seniors.

The issue of senior driver safety is becoming a bigger one as the population ages and there are greater numbers of older drivers on the roads. A separate AAA study showed that 84% of those over the age of 65 still have a driver’s license. That number was just over 50% back in the early 1970s.

Despite the increasing number of seniors drivers and that frightened little old lady behind the wheel, the data also shows that they aren’t all terrible drivers. A whopping 90% of those over 65 reported that they haven’t had any accidents in the last two years. 90% also reported no moving violations. They might look scared to death on occasion, but the numbers show they are not driving recklessly.

AAA is continuing their efforts to understand senior drivers with a study that will follow 3,000 seniors over the next five years to monitor their driving habits. In the meantime, you might not need to be as worried about that older driver as you first thought.