San Mateo, CA - A new national survey of baby boomers shows a growing need for better communication about driving issues among adult children and their aging parents, calls for additional restrictions on their parents' driving - whether voluntary or mandatory -- and points to an urgent need for expanded access to public transportation for seniors. The survey, released today by Caring.com and the National Safety Council during National Safety Month, is designed to raise awareness about a growing national concern about elderly drivers.
Over the next 20 years, the United States will experience a substantial growth in senior drivers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of those over 75 will grow from 18 million to 31 million between 2008 and 2028. With accident rates for drivers over the age of 65 higher than for any other group except teens, this large increase in senior drivers could result in up to 100,000 senior driving deaths between 2008 and 2028.
"With our senior driving population growing, there will be more drivers over the age of 75, potentially causing serious safety issues on our roads," said John Kennedy, executive director of NSC Defensive Driving Programs. "As a nation, we must do more to promote mature driver safety through better education, self-evaluation tools, refresher driving courses, and more options for public transportation." Caring.com and NSC fielded the "Mature Drivers Survey" among baby boomers, the group most commonly impacted by caring for an aging parent. The purpose of the survey was to gather insights on how children of aging parents feel about their parents' driving safety.
Overall, research shows a clear desire among baby boomers for more resources and information to help them with issues surrounding their aging parents' driving safety. Additionally, many feel there should be restrictions on their parents' driving, but they aren't comfortable having that difficult conversation.
"Talking to an aging parent about driving is a very sensitive issue, but adult children need to have these conversations to avoid a dangerous situation for their loved ones and for society at large," said Andy Cohen, cofounder and CEO, Caring.com. "Caring.com has scripts and articles on how to have these difficult conversations."
Talking to aging parents about their driving is a sensitive subject. Approximately 40 percent of survey respondents reported not feeling comfortable talking to parents about driving. In fact, they were much more comfortable talking to them about selling their home or making funeral plans than about their driving issues. Many baby boomers who feel their parents should not drive reported never having had a discussion on the topic. Yet 70 percent said they believe they or another family member should address this issue with their parents when the time comes.
When asked for one piece of advice on how to talk to parents about driving, respondents overwhelmingly recommended being honest and speaking from the heart, discussing the issue of their safety and the safety of others on the road, speaking from a position of concern and not ridicule, and letting them know they have a support network.
While each state has individual testing requirements, approximately 33 percent of baby boomer respondents think there should be restrictions on their parents' driving -- whether voluntary or mandatory -- including curbs on night driving or driving long distances. Seventy-one percent think there should be mandatory driving tests for drivers age 70 and over, with 80 percent feeling mandatory testing should be conducted every one to two years.
Inadequate Public Transportation If there are restrictions on driving, how do seniors get around? More than half of the survey respondents said there is inadequate public transportation available to meet their parents' needs, and 87 percent said public transit doesn't exist or they're not aware of it.
The following are some tips from Caring.com and NSC on how to assess a parent's driving abilities:
- Take several drives with your parent at the wheel, and observe his/her driving with an open mind.
- Notice whether your parent is reluctant to drive.
- Watch for slowed reaction time.
- Notice his/her awareness of the driving environment.
- Check the car for signs of damage when he/she is not with you.
- Check with trusted friends and neighbors about his/her driving.
*About the Study: Interviewing for the Mature Drivers Survey was conducted online by Knowledge Networks among a national sample of 1,011 adults who had one or more living parent aged 65 and older, who still drive. Interviews were conducted April 15 through April 21, 2008. Members of the Knowledge Networks Internet panel were initially recruited by telephone to join the KN panel; panelists who were not online were provided with Internet access. The findings reflect a nationally representative sample of the target population.
The National Safety Council (www.nsc.org) saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.
Caring.com is a community and content website that provides people who are caring for aging parents with time-saving information to help them make better decisions. Founded in 2007 by a team of people who have taken care of their own aging parents, Caring.com is a free resource to users and is supported by advertisers. Caring.com is backed by leading venture investors DCM and Split Rock Partners. Caring.com is headquartered in San Mateo, California, and can be reached at www.caring.com.