Seniors willing to discuss driving abilities, yet conversations
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[July 11, 2014]
There are currently more than 23
million licensed drivers aged 70 and older, and with baby boomers
beginning to reach 70 years of age, the number of seniors on the
road will rise steadily over the next two decades.
A new survey released by Liberty Mutual Insurance finds that the
majority of senior drivers are behind the wheel regularly, even with
reported limited physical abilities. Though many seniors drive
safely well into their later years, it’s likely that they will
eventually have to face the difficult decision to stop driving.
While the majority of senior drivers surveyed are open to
conversations about limiting or stopping their driving, only 6
percent have spoken with someone about their driving abilities.
“These are difficult conversations but important to have early and
often, because everyone ages differently,” says David Melton,
driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing
director of global safety. “Too often, these discussions are avoided
until warning signs appear or, worse, there is an accident. It’s a
step we all need to take to ensure the safety of our loved ones and
The report reveals that despite declining physical abilities, many
seniors still drive several times a week or even every day. In the
past six months, the majority surveyed reported driving regularly
despite slow reaction times, difficulty seeing or hearing, getting
lost or feeling confused while driving.
While nearly all senior drivers would consider limiting or stopping
their driving if presented with the right reason, most are hesitant
about transitioning to the passenger seat. Top concerns among
seniors about limiting or stopping driving include losing
independence, becoming less active, difficulty finding alternative
forms of transportation, and feeling isolated.
In 2013, Liberty
Mutual Insurance conducted a survey of children of elderly drivers
to determine if they were having conversations about driving with
their aging parents, and if not, what was preventing them. The
survey found that more than half of children with senior parents
were concerned about their parents’ driving abilities and safety,
yet nearly one-third avoided initiating the conversation.
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However, this new report reveals that people may be avoiding
conversations with aging drivers more than self-reported, while more
seniors are actually open to talking:
- Only 6 percent of senior drivers report having had a
discussion about their driving abilities, despite 84 percent
saying that they would be open to talking about the issue.
- The majority of seniors who have not yet had a conversation
report they would feel most comfortable being approached by
their children or doctor.
- Seniors cite a doctor’s recommendation and recognition of
their own declining physical abilities as top reasons to limit
or stop driving.
“We know from our surveys that seniors are more receptive to
conversations about driving than their children assume, which often
prevents conversations from happening,” says Melton. “In reality,
seniors are usually so receptive to these conversations that many
stop driving within six months of talking about it with their loved
ones. These are tough conversations, but caregivers should take
comfort knowing that these discussions are typically easier than
expected and usually have positive outcomes.”
It’s more important than ever for children and loved ones of senior
drivers to have conversations about driving early and often, before
it’s time to stop. For additional tips on talking to loved ones
about driving and resources for seniors when driving is no longer an