July 15, 2014 | Posted in Podcast Episodes, Senior Driving

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Julie Lee, Vice President and National Director, AARP Driver Safety

Julie Lee, Vice President and National Director, AARP Driver Safety

Julie Lee, Vice President and National Director of AARP Driver Safety chats with me about nine important summer driving tips; tips that apply to all drivers. Surprising to many, summer is a more dangerous driving time than winter. In the summer months of June through August 2012, there were 18 percent more fatal car crashes than in the winter months of December through February. In part, the reasons include an increase in the number of people traveling for vacations and the nicer weather, and a major surge in road construction.

Young and Senior Drivers—Not the Same

In 2012, there were 5,560 people 65 and older killed and 214,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. These older people made up 17 percent of all traffic fatalities and 9 percent of all people injured in traffic crashes during the year. Compared to 2011, fatalities among people 65 and older and injured people in this age group increased by 16 percent.

When looking at the vehicle fatality rate by age, there is a noticeable curve, or U shape. For young drivers where the fatality rate is the highest, the cause is a mixture of actions, primarily all related to inexperience and/or risky behavior. But for drivers over 65, inexperience is clearly not the reason. Being an older driver does not mean an inability to drive, but it can mean an increased fragility. Older drivers are more likely to die in crashes that younger people may survive. Being an older driver requires greater awareness and understanding of any limitations because of aging.

Fatalities per 1,000 Licensed Drivers by Age

Fatalities per 1,000 Licensed Drivers by Age

Summer Driving Tips

Recognizing the danger of summer driving and the issues surrounding older drivers, AARP has nine important tips for getting to your destination safely. In this episode, Ms. Lee discusses the tips in more detail, but a summary includes:

  • Planning ahead.
  • Giving yourself extra time and taking regular breaks.
  • Being prepared for emergencies.
  • Pulling over to the side—the right way.
  • Checking your tires to stay safe and save money.
  • Using the three-second rule when driving.
  • Avoiding distractions.
  • Staying Calm.
  • Looking out for motorcyclists and bicyclists.
AARP also has an online Driver Safety Program

AARP also has an online Driver Safety Program

Being a “Smart Driver”

Ms. Lee and I also talk about the recently revised AARP driving course, Smart Driver. Earlier this year, AARP revised its older driver course to reflect the current state of the research. It also incorporated a message of accepting change with a theme of “Things Change.” The two-day course is about recognizing that everything changes: ones physical abilities, the cars driven, the roads used, and the laws applied. It is about understanding these changes and learning what can be done about them.  AARP also created an online driver safety program.

Senior Drivers and Safety Concerns

However, even with the refresher course, at some point, it may be necessary to curtail someone’s driving. Because of safety concerns, you may see the need to have a parent or grandparent stop driving. If that is the case, you will find useful information about having that conversation at “We Need to Talk.” This is always a tough subject but it is an important one, when everyone’s safety is at risk.

One of Ms. Lee’s suggestions is to start having this important discussion before it is needed. This is a conversation to do early and frequently to ensure everyone’s perspective is considered, and everyone understands the next steps when it becomes necessary.

Continuing to drive later in life can be important.

Continuing to drive later in life can be important.

Senior Drivers Moving On

For a lot of people, young and old, driving is a demonstration of independence. Being a senior driver does not mean ending that freedom—it means understanding the changes and responding accordingly. Being a senior driver means taking advantage of the tools and information specifically tailored for you. Using the growing body of knowledge can help all of us drive off into the sunset for many years to come.

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