When Should Seniors Stop Driving? Study Finds “No One Wants To Talk About It”

Florida State University conducted a recent survey showing that senior drivers aren’t quite ready to discuss the right time for giving up their car keys.

According to the responses, only five percent had spoken to a doctor about their ability to drive, while only 13 percent said they had planned for the point when they were no longer capable of driving, and a robust 71 percent admitted they weren’t interested in getting information about it from their doctor, family members, or other people.

The study encouraged doctors to take the lead in opening up the conversation regarding life without a license.

“We don’t want it to be after the third wreck like after my mom; she totaled her car. That’s when she stopped driving. They need a plan in place ahead of time,” said John Reynolds, director of FSU’s Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy (conductors of the study).

In comments to WCTV, senior driver Julie Pestella joked that it took “about 20 minutes to park a car,” but admitted that having a serious conversation on the matter was a different story for a number of her peers. 

“A lot of folks don’t want to talk about it because we don’t want to lose our freedom,” Pestella said.

Senior Drivers and Auto Insurance

From the insurance perspective, it may be a conversation worth having, but it’s not exactly indicative of the reality behind senior safety risks when operating a motor vehicle.

In fact, Esurance recently reported that “seniors’ crash involvement rates … begin to rise at age 70 and jump significantly at 80.”

“But it’s not until 85 that their crash rate surpasses that of teen drivers,” the site added, “so, on average, senior drivers still have lower rates than teenage drivers.” And as one senior pointed out, “no one’s in any hurry to talk teens in to handing over their car keys.”

Plus, it’s important to remember that as the life expectancy rate goes up, so, too, will quality of life, thus sending the “crash bar” of 85 trending upward as well.

And the simple fact of the matter is that, for every one elderly person who rams their station wagon through the front of a grocery store multiple times, there are dozens of other seniors who are using their experience to compensate for any loss in road awareness and reflexes.

As an Esurance representative notes, senior drivers “have a wealth of driving experience to draw on, and that gives them an edge.”

“Even if they’re unable to respond as quickly to changing circumstances on the road, they’re likely to have much more experience driving in a variety of dangerous conditions and adjusting appropriately to them,” the rep explained.

Seniors are also more likely to ration their driving time. They tend to drive based on getting things they need or taking care of other important business rather than for the simple purpose of getting out of the house. Less time on the road equates to less risk, and that keeps them a lower risk group than teenagers and young adults.

In Summary

There comes a point in every person’s life when driving is less practical and more dangerous than it was before. For that reason, it’s important to know when the time is right to “have the conversation” about handing over the keys. Maybe this responsibility should fall on the doctor, maybe the family or insurer. But reality shows that seniors use greater caution and planning behind the wheel, and that’s something anyone can learn from, no matter how many birthdays they’ve had.

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