AAA study finds senior drivers support tougher driving rules

A recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that U.S. drivers ages 65 and up are more likely to disapprove of unsafe driving behaviors and to support tougher driving rules and penalties for drivers who break the law.

Eighty to 90 percent of the senior drivers surveyed favored tougher driving rules and laws even when those laws would restrict their own driving behavior. According to AAA, 17 percent of all drivers on the road are over 65. Among drivers over 85, more than half – 68 percent – say that they drive at least five days per week. Since older drivers are at a higher risk for car accidents, the study’s findings are as heartening as they are surprising.

In particular, drivers 65 and older overwhelmingly supported:

  • In-person license renewals. Over 70 percent of older drivers surveyed agreed that drivers over age 70 should have to renew their licenses in person – no more renewals by mail or online.
  • Medical screenings. Nearly 80 percent of drivers over age 75 said that requiring drivers in their age group to pass a basic medical screening in order to keep their driving privileges was a good idea.

Older drivers were also more likely to condemn unsafe driving practices like speeding, cell phone use and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. When asked about methods for curbing unsafe behavior, however, the study found that the older drivers were, the more likely they were to support tougher driving rules, laws, and other tools. For instance:

  • About 70 percent of drivers over age 75 favored speed cameras, while only 50 percent of drivers ages 65-69 favored them.
  • While over 90 percent of older drivers in all age groups were against texting while driving, drivers ages 65-69 were more likely to support certain types of phone use while driving. Sixty-five percent of drivers in their 60s were against all phone use, while 72 percent of drivers over 75 were against it.
  • Over 90 percent of drivers over 70 favor universal motorcycle helmet laws, compared to 85 percent of drivers ages 65-69.

Unlike younger drivers who also condemn unsafe driving behaviors, older drivers were also less likely to engage in these behaviors themselves. For instance, about 90 percent of the drivers surveyed claimed that they had had no moving violations or crashes in the past two years.

The study analyzed data gathered from surveys of older drivers conducted between 2011 and 2013. The 1,793 older drivers represented in the study were split into three age groups: ages 65-69, 70-74 and 75 and older. AAA plans to follow up the results of this study with work that focuses on the driving records, habits and opinions of older drivers. The new study will examine the behaviors of 3,000 older drivers over five years.

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