AAA survey: Older drivers reluctant to admit difficulty
Even if your mother or father feels they're not on top of their game behind the wheel, chances are they won't mention it you — or anyone else.
According to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 83 percent of drivers aged 65 and older report never speaking to a family member or physician about their safe driving ability. And among those who do speak up and initiate the difficult conversation, most do so after a crash or traffic infraction has occurred.
Forty-eight of the 176 drivers killed so far in 2018 on New Jersey's roads were over the age of 64, according to State Police figures. The age group represented 71 of 339 driver fatalities in 2017.
The statistics do not mention whether the senior citizen was at fault for the crash, and it should be noted older drivers are at greater risk of death and injury due to their fragility.
According to AAA, seniors outlive their ability to drive safely by an average of seven to 10 years.
"There comes a time when people need to have a conversation about driving safety," said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Sometimes it does fall to adult children of older drivers to have that conversation."
And that conversation doesn't have to wait until red flags are already popping up — scrapes on the car, for example, or worsening health conditions.
"One of the things that adult children can do is simply drive with the seniors in their life," Noble said. "And if you are not comfortable with the senior driving you, then maybe it's time to have that conversation."
When talking to an older driver, AAA advises adults to avoid generalizations, focus on the facts, and make sure the older driver plays an active role in developing a plan for their "driving retirement."
Noble said senior citizens are actually among the safest driving populations on New Jersey's roads, as long as their physical and mental state are adequate.
According to U.S. Census data, individuals aged 65 and older made up 15.3 percent of New Jersey's population in 2016, compared to 14.1 percent in 2012.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission does have a process to determine whether one's driving privileges should be restricted. The MVC website says if an individual feels a family member may have difficulty driving for any number of reasons, the situation can be reported to the agency's Medical Review Unit.