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Baby Boomer Drivers Will Increase the Number of Senior Drivers

By Rstaib Posted : 05/05/2008

By 2030, more than 40 million aging Baby Boomers will be flooding America's streets and highways as senior drivers. For some people, this is a scary thought, because senior citizens and teenagers have the highest rates of auto accidents in the United States. For others, including Baby Boomers whose auto insurance premiums may increase when they become senior drivers, it's merely something to plan for. And that's exactly what many organizations and states are doing by developing driver safety programs, car accessories, and new laws to help improve senior drivers' overall driving performance. What are these new developments?

Driver Safety Classes

A refresher course for drivers age 50 and older, the AARP Driver Safety Class is designed to help seniors tune up their driving skills, update their knowledge, reduce traffic violations, learn about age-related physical challenges – and most importantly, learn how to be safe drivers. In addition, the AARP course can also help its graduates earn a multi-year discount on their auto insurance.

AAA Roadwise Review
To help keep senior drivers safe, AAA has developed an interactive software program called Roadwise Review, which seniors can use in the comfort of their own homes. The program covers these eight physical and mental abilities shown to be the strongest predictors of crash risk among older drivers.

  1. Leg Strength and General Mobility—necessary to control acceleration and braking.
  2. Head/Neck Flexibility—essential for checking blind spots, changing lanes or merging.
  3. High Contrast Visual Acuity—needed to identify pavement markings, as well as detect many types of hazards in or near the road.
  4. Low Contrast Visual Acuity—vital for driving in low visibility conditions such as dusk, rain or fog.
  5. Working Memory—important for following directions, remembering traffic rules and regulations, and using information on highway guide signs.
  6. Visualization of Missing Information—helpful for recognizing hazards when seeing only part of the picture.
  7. Visual Search—required to quickly find and recognize traffic signs and landmarks.
  8. Useful Field of View—beneficial for ensuring drivers can pay attention to what is happening right in front of them, while also noticing safety threats at the edge of their field of view.

Developed by the American Society on Aging, AARP, The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. and AAA, CarFit is a 12-point checklist program created for senior drivers to evaluate how well their cars fit their physical and mental needs. During a CarFit session, seniors meet with a trained professional who reviews some questions with them and checks their vehicle for proper fit and usability. The process only takes about 15 minutes and concludes with a list of recommended car adjustments and adaptations seniors can make to their vehicle.

Car Accessories
Due to rising health care costs, seniors may not have the resources to buy a new, senior-friendly car. However, items aging Baby Boomers can purchase to help make driving easier include seat cushions that elevate drivers to the appropriate eye level, pedal extensions that help maintain the recommended 10 inches between driver and steering wheel and corrective mirrors that help eliminate blind spots and compensate for decreased mobility in the neck – a problem experienced by many senior drivers.

Renewing Driver's Licenses
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, states that require people to renew their driver's licenses in person have 17% fewer crashes involving drivers older than 85 than states without such rules. Many states go further, with laws mandating a special written and vision test prior to renewal of seniors' driver's licenses. Many seniors question the fairness and effectiveness of these laws, but we're likely to see more of them as the number of senior drivers grows.

Prototype Cars
Together with a variety of automotive manufacturers, the AgeLab at M.I.T. has been conducting research and tests on various vehicles to try to develop a car that will help prolong and promote safe driving among older adults. One of the tools the AgeLab has developed is "Miss Daisy," a VW Beetle driving simulator paired with a projection movie screen that displays the "road" ahead. One of the options explored with the simulator is bumper-mounted sensors that use radar to activate collision-warning and emergency-alert systems. The collision-warning system helps gauge the speed of on-coming traffic, and the emergency-alert system beeps when the car starts to drift out of its lane. If ever developed for the public, this could potentially improve the driving performance of senior drivers.

Reevaluate Your Auto Insurance
Often, seniors continue to pay for auto insurance they no longer need. That's why we recommend that seasoned drivers reevaluate their auto insurance policy once they have retired or have reduced their annual mileage. Insurance.com allows all drivers, seniors included, to compare car insurance rates from multiple top companies. Not only will the instant comparisons help you save time, they can also save you money on your auto insurance rate.

Worried About an Elderly Driver?
Seniors often continue to drive because they don't want to burden family members with the task of driving them around from place to place – even though they themselves might be questioning their own driving ability. Consider offering to drive your family member to and from errands or doctor's appointments – they will appreciate the offer and company.

If your family member lives far away, check with local transportation services in their area to see if there's a pick-up/drop-off service that can drive them to their destination. Even if you can't be there, at least you'll know they're safe.

Looking for different information? Have questions or feedback? Please let us know.

Originally posted November 16, 2006.


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