Are Elderly Motorists Driving More While Under The Influence Of Medication? - O'Connor Acciani & Levy

Are Elderly Motorists Driving More While Under The Influence Of Medication?

May 12, 2014 | By O'Connor Acciani & Levy
Are Elderly Motorists Driving More While Under The Influence Of Medication?

Older Americans are driving more often, and later in life, than those in previous generations, according to a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The insights from the study are quite eye-opening and provide an opportunity for tips older drivers and their families can use to help seniors extend their time behind the wheel.

Report Highlights

The findings speak to trends about older drivers, some of which are surprising.
  • 25 percent of men and 18 percent of women remain in the workforce after age 65, resulting in more than double the work-related commutes for drivers 65 and older compared to 20 years ago
  • 68 percent of drivers age 85 or older report driving five or more days per week
  • Drivers 65 years and older posted a 20-percent increase in trips and a 33-percent hike in miles traveled
The report, Understanding Older Drivers: An Examination of Medical Conditions, Medication Use and Travel Behaviors, further shows that 90 percent of older drivers also use prescription medications. Two-thirds of these senior drivers take multiple medications. Previous research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that medication combinations, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC), can result in an impairment in safe driving ability.
  • 75 percent of drivers aged 65 and older with a medical condition report reduced daily driving
  • Self-regulating behavior, among those taking several medications or with a medical condition, declines with increasing income. Female drivers ages 65-69 with an annual income under $13,000 were 62 percent more likely to restrict nighttime driving than women with $70,000+ incomes

How To Help Older Drivers Safely Continue Driving

To gain a better understanding of what older Americans and their loved ones can do to help extend seniors time behind the wheel, The Car Connection spoke with Jake Nelson, Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research, AAA National. What precautions should older drivers be taking, specifically? Nelson: Older drivers need to be aware that the medications they take (both prescriptive and OTC) can affect their ability to drive safely. They need to discuss this possibility with their doctor. Roadwise Rx can aid in this conversation by flagging potential issues. What prescription and OTC drugs pose the most risks? Nelson: Sleep aids, both prescriptive and OTC, and opiate pain medications are particularly risky for drivers. Is there any database on drivers taking medications? Nelson: There exists no national database of drug use by drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSA's) FARS database has information on some, but not all, drug use by drivers involved in fatal crashes. Data on drug use by drivers is very weak. What can adult children do to discuss this matter with aging or elderly parents who drive? Nelson: Adult children and caregivers of aging drivers should ensure that they are aware of the medications the driver is taking. They should also encourage the driver to review this information with their doctor. Is there an age when driving should cease? If so, how should adult children and older drivers prepare for this? Nelson: No, chronological age is in no way an indicator of when someone should retire from driving. Medical fitness to drive is what matters. Self-screening tools like AAAs Roadwise Review is a good tool for drivers without some form of dementia. Otherwise, a formal assessment conducted by an Occupational Therapy Driver Rehabilitation Specialist is the best option. These professionals will identify risks and recommend ways to mitigate them, if possible. What about driving aids and safety equipment that can help minimize driving risks, such as blind-spot monitoring systems, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, driver drowsiness alert, forward collision avoidance systems, self-parking features and the like? Nelson: Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are becoming very popular in recent years. While these technologies are very promising in terms of potential to reduce crashes, little is known about how these systems perform in the real world. Previous AAA Foundation research also suggests that older drivers often do not fully understand how these systems work and how they are limited. Any general tips on older drivers and safe driving, including medication use, age, general physical and mental condition, etc.? Nelson: Staying physically and mentally fit is very important to driver safety and longevity. Walking and stretching are good ways to extend safe driving years. Crossword puzzles and tools like DriveSharp are good ways to keep the mind sharp.will identify risks and recommend ways to mitigate them, if possible. Have you or someone that you love suffered a serious injury after being involved in an auto accident in Cincinnati that was caused by an elderly driver? If so, contact one of the leading personal injury lawyers in Cincinnati at the law offices of O'Connor, Acciani and Levy today at (877) 288-3241 and find out how we can help.