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Elderly Drivers


Date: Sun, 30 May 1999 11:31:39 -1000

From: RR <rr@hour.com>
To: DrDriving@DrDriving.org
Subject: article on Internet

DrDriving,
I have been in several accidents in the last 5 years. 4 Senior citizens, one born in 1917 who drove away after the accident I just got my insurance cancelled for which I will have to pay an increase. It's time to put these seniors on buses and take their driving licenses away and save the insurance companies and the general public a lot of money. My father in law gave his license up at 65 saying cars are too fast, road changes are a constant problem and he didn't want to be responsible for someone else's death. Living in a small community, seniors are all over and I intend to sue the old lady born in 1917, for my grief, mental problems and insurance increases because she decided to brake at an intersection with a green light to make sure nobody was coming. I was not charged, but she was, leaving the scene, but my insurance goes up anyway.

What is your opinion on this problem? e-mail DrDriving

Dear DrDriving:

As an epidemiologist interested in aging issues, I have thought about the effect of an aging population on traffic safety. Most studies indicate that accident rates are lower overall for older drivers, but much higher if you use "miles driven" as the denominator. While variability increases with age, most people experience a slowing of reaction time with age, and many also experience other changes in cognitive function, some more serious than others. Combine this with the absolute necessity to drive in order to maintain independence in most areas, and the presence on the road of younger drivers with shorter attention-spans and (if your survey results hold), increased aggressiveness, and it sounds like a recipe for trouble. Along these lines: are you aware of any longitudinal data that would indicate whether differences in driving aggressiveness with age are actually age-related or due to a cohort effect? I can see arguments for both.

Dear Epidemiologist,

My research indicates that drivers 25 to 54, who make up the bulk of the nation's 177 million drivers, remember their parents as aggressive drivers, but not as aggressive as they rate themselves. For example,

The Generational View on Aggressive Driving

Aggressive Driving Behaviors

Young
(15-24)

Middle
(25-54)

Older
(55-85)

How Parents are remembered

Break job or deliberate cutting off

32%

28%

18%

14%

Using car to deliberately block lane

18%

13%

12%

14%

Tailgating on purpose

23%

13%

4%

12%

Making an insulting gesture

27%

21%

19%

16%

Yelling at another driver

32%

25%

18%

20%

Speeding at least 15 mph above limit

45%

37%

13%

28%

Running red lights

49%

27%

18%

23%

From DrDriving's Web survey--based on a national sample of 1784 drivers

Our research indicates that aggressive driving is a cultural norm that we learn from childhood as we ride in cars and watch drivers behaving badly on TV. Clearly, aggressive driving habits are transmitted from one generation to the next. The norms vary in accordance with gender, age, and one's driver personality. The Table above shows that age is a big factor in aggressive driving. When drivers are still young and inexperienced, they take more risks and are less safe. For instance, one in two young drivers (49%) admit to running red lights, a risky behavior that decreases to 18% as drivers enter the senior age category. Tailgating is done by one in four young drivers, but decreases to 12% when they enter the 55-plus category of highway citizenship.

The drivers were also asked about how they remember their parents as drivers. The percentages in the last column of the Table indicate that as a generation, we have distinct memories of our parents' aggressive driving habits. One in five of us (20%) remember our parents as yelling at other drivers. There is an alarming tendency for the current generation to see itself as more aggressive than our parents were. It's possible that we are discovering here a tendency for each generation of drivers to be more aggressive than the previous. This would be expected if road rage is a "culture tantrum" and aggressive driving a cultural norm. If this holds up, we better do something about it.

Drivers 65+ get more tickets

According to a recent survey, drivers 65+ get more tickets for running red lights than younger age groups. In our Road Rage Survey, only 2% of older drivers (55+) admit to driving through red, vs. 12% of the other drivers (15 to 54) admit to doing it. Obviously, older drivers have an inaccurate view of themselves: many of them drive through red but are not aware of it.

A new approach that helps older drivers become more aware of their vulnerabilities and declining abilities is the Driver Simulator. It makes you aware of declining reaction times and your tendency to compensate for it by taking more dangerous risks.

With declining vision you are more likely to miss some crucial piece of information or detail that can help you avoid a crash. Thinking is also slowed down so that it takes longer to make a decision such as taking evasive action. Proactive readiness can compensate for these problems. An example is AARP 55+ Alive National Program. Another example is participating in a Quality Driving Circle.

And yet there are many advantages in being an older and more experienced driver. Younger drivers enjoy fantasies of violence more often than older drivers. Older driver feel compassion towards other drivers more than younger drivers do.

See more results here.

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Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999 14:32:50 -1000

From: Louis Turner let18@juno.com
To: leon@hawaii.edu
Subject: DrDriving

Thanks for your e-mail response. You asked me what I see as "defensive driving"; this is my ninth year of teaching the 55 Alive/Mature Driving program. You are probably very well acquainted with what it is about. As I view it, the emphasis is on self-appraisal, that is, being very honest with myself, no denial allowed.

  1. We teach it is important to check ourselves out before we get behind the wheel. If we are not physically or emotionally sound, to hold ourselves accountable and not drive.
  2. We teach the need to self-appraise our aging process; Vision, hearing, peripheral vision, reaction time, depth perception, etc.
  3. We teach a minimum of 3 seconds clearance between my car and the one I am following.
  4. We look at hazardous road conditions; prefering right turns, where possible; yielding ROW; Keeping eyes moving to get the 'bigger-picture"
  5. How to compensate for age related physical changes; be alert to impact of medications on reaction time; keeping a "space - cushion" between us and the other driver; being mindful of "blind-spot" hazard. When to quit driving.

These are some of the high-lights of the course. I am a retired physician, and really see my participation in this work as helping older drivers (many of whom have never had driver ed) drive safely for as long as possible.


Gerontology and Driving


JANET DENNIS, 42, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles:

People ask me how do we regulate older people. When they walk into our office, they take a standard vision test, and if the examiner has any concerns about their physical or mental abilities, he tells them to come back for a driving test. Or he might send them back to their doctor for a more complete exam.
A second mechanism is, any dangerous driver may be reported to us by a physician or family member, and we will follow that up. If it's a doctor, we will immediately send a letter requiring that person to come in for a road test. If it's a family member or neighbor, we will personally go out and visit the person in question to make a finding.

The third way we monitor is, if somebody's in a crash, the investigating officer fills out a crash report. If he believes the driver's ability should be re-tested, he checks a box, and that person will be required to come in for a road test or else their license will be suspended.

(...)

MICHAEL SEATON, 54, American Association of Retired Persons executive and creator of the popular 55Alive driving course: For the average older driver, losing a license is like breaking a hip and having to go into a nursing home: Suddenly you're immobile, you can't go anywhere. To not be able to drive in this country is terrible: Even if you limit yourself to sunny days and certain hours, you want that independence. Sometimes AARP gets the bad rap. People think we're just interested in protecting elderly drivers, but we're not. We've always been consistent on this. We do support more rigorous testing for everyone. We'd like to have in-person renewals every four years for people of all ages. That way everybody is tested the same. If the older people fall out, so be it, but to castigate a whole age category is just not right

(...)

MALCOLM BEARD, 77, retired chairman, Florida Senate transportation committee:We debated this. I just don't think the elderly drivers are the problem. The problem is from about ages 16 to 26. Probably the elderly drivers' problem is driving too slow and all that, but some of these other people are cutting in and out of traffic and crossing three lanes. Young people. Daredevils. The only problem is, the elderly people don't really want to give up the driving privilege, so they drive perhaps longer than they should. But we've got bigger problems as far as I'm concerned I don't think we need to keep on looking to penalize the elderly. Most of them have been driving for 40 or 50 years, and some of them have a perfect record as safe drivers. They have eye checks . I think that's sufficient. I'll tell you what, when I feel I'm unsafe to drive, I'll just quit.

(...)

JOSE GUERRIER, 44, senior research scientist, Stein Gerontological Institute: We do know as people get older, their vision gets worse; they process information more slowly; they take longer to react. But older people also try to compensate by driving less, avoiding rush hour and difficult maneuvers. You might say they self-regulate. For this reason, if you look at the data for every 1,000 licensed drivers, older people actually have fewer accidents. However, by another measure, if you control the data taking into account that older people don't drive as much, then you find that on a per-mile basis older drivers say 75 and older become a much higher risk. And in terms of fatal crashes, some data show that for every 100 million miles driven nationally, the driving group aged 16 to 19 has five fatalities; whereas for people 85 and older, it's about 30 fatalities. So at that range, the elderly are six times more likely to be killed than teens.

Original story here


500,000 accident reports

Analyzing more than 500,000 accident reports over the past decade collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- a representative sampling of all 24 million accidents reported from 1988 through 1997 -- USA Today found:
The rate of aggressive-driving accidents has remained virtually constant, accounting for one of every five crashes with injuries each year.

Over the past decade, aggressive driving has killed an average of 1,500 people each year, injured another 800,000 and cost roughly $24 billion annually in medical costs, property damage and lost work time.

The mix of accidents has changed, as the number of speeding accidents jumped 48 percent over the decade -- from 103,000 in 1988 to 153,000 in 1997 -- and other forms of aggressive driving, such as reckless driving, dropped.

However, the aggressive driving rate may be about to go up due to increased highway congestion, warn experts, since the number of miles driven has risen 35 percent while the miles of new roads built has increased just 1 percent.

Source: Scott Bowles and Paul Overberg, "Aggressive Driving: a Road Well-Traveled," USA Today, November 23, 1998.


Age discrimination?

Eleven states already have age-based renewal requirements and others are reviewing the issue, but they face stiff opposition from one of the country's most powerful lobbies -- senior citizens groups.

These groups consider the Hayden bill an example of age discrimination.

It may also be premature, said Jean Carpenter, a California lobbyist for the American Association of Retired Persons.

She said new technology being developed by the Department of Motor Vehicles may make it possible to test all drivers periodically using subjective road-simulation systems that could render the senator's concerns moot.

Many older drivers increase their safety on the road by driving only during daylight and finding routes that involve less traffic or no left-hand turns, she said.

AARP also sponsors refresher driving courses so older drivers can get a break on their insurance.

According to studies, senior drivers have the highest rates of fatal car accidents per mile except teen-agers.

"It isn't just older people who can be poor drivers. Eighteen-, 21-, and 35-year-olds can also be, depending on the circumstances," said Lois Wellington, president of the Congress of California Seniors.

Wellington said she does not oppose driver testing or other attempts to get all dangerous motorists off the road. But she does object to efforts that target a particular age group.

Supporters of the proposal deny that they're discriminating against older Californians. They say they're simply trying to save lives by testing older drivers whose reflexes and abilities may not be as sharp as they once were.

"We put all kinds of burdens on 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds to be tested, and all evidence shows that at age 75 and beyond one's reflexes worsen," says Hayden.

"This doesn't discriminate against anybody unless you think having to take a road test when you're 81 years old is too much," he added..

Original story here || What is your opinion? E-mail DrDriving

 

ELDERLY WIDOWS AND DRIVING Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 04:21:33 -1000
From: WR@aol.com
To: DrDriving@DrDriving.org
Subject: New Drivers who are Elderly and Female


I am working on a news article for the Columbia School of Journalism on elderly widows. Many widows over the age of 65, I've found, never learned how to drive a car. Their husbands were the drivers, and when their husbands passed on, they had to become more independent, doing a lot of walking and learning how to take buses and subways. After speaking to many widows over 65, most of them agreed that they did not learn to drive because their husbands didn't encourage them and/or they were very afraid of driving. I'm trying to pinpoint where this fear came from-- obviously, nowadays, women are not as afraid of driving anymore.

If you could offer some insight on this or direct me to someone who could comment on this--how some widows adjust to the loss of transportation aspect of widowhood, and why they never learned to drive-- it would be much appreciated. A written response over the net will suffice. I'm also trying to find out if, generally speaking, there are widows out there who even learned how to drive after their husbands passed on and left them a car.

The reason these women (a) didn't learn to drive all those years and (b), are now so afraid to learn, lies in the male dominated culture which many women alive today have experienced since birth. The majority of married women are regularly abused by their husbands in various ways, verbally, by gesture, physically, psychologically, financially. This is a well known cultural fact and can be observed by anyone in families, the workplace, in movies, and of course, as passengers. Husbands and boyfriends regularly abuse the women who love them. I receive many testimonials of this. Since this is a general cultural practice, you can see that many 65+-year-old widows whose husbands have passed on, or are no longer able to drive, find themselves in this predicament created not by themselves, but by society and the men who abused them.

So now these women need training in driver education that has a psychological component, as outlined in Chapters 8, 9, and 10. Besides the need to understand safety principles, they also need to understand the highway environment, which can be aggressive, hostile, overwhelming. New drivers who are elderly and female have a double handicap to overcome in the eyes of society and the motorists on the road. They need to be given training tools to learn how to manage people's cynicism and hostility towards first, older drivers, and second, female drivers. Especially do they need to know and understand how to monitor their driving in relation to other motorists. Every stretch of road has its repeated users and they develop expectations or "local norms" about how people should drive within that zone. Anyone driving differently violates those expectations, arouses ire, and is treated aggressively and with hostility by the others who are affected.

For instance, older drivers tend to be what people call Left Lane Bandits, which is a kind of passive-aggressive road rage. They will refuse to move over into the right lane, causing a flurry of dangerous activity around them as hundreds of drivers are scrambling angrily to get around them. New drivers who are older need to be trained how to remain alert to this problem, and how to monitor the activity of vehicles around them, especially taking into account how they affect others strong desire to progress quickly. This is especially a problem for older drivers because we tend to slow down in our reaction time to events, taking longer to get going at traffic lights and intersections, or in parking lots.

I strongly recommend that new drivers who are elderly be encouraged to participate in Quality Driving Circles. These are small groups of drivers of any age who meet together on a regular basis and help each other with their Lifelong Driver Self-Improvement Program (please see Reference). The older women drivers especially can benefit from these group interactions, motivating them to continue to develop their driving skills and style. This is much needed since getting a driver's license does not address these skills. Yet they are essential for survival and health.

Older drivers have two things going for them. First, the older you get the more driving experience you accumulate, and since driving is a complicated bundle of skills, being more experienced is an advantage. One example is the skill of assessing risk, an area of driving where young inexperienced drivers are not good at. They get into three times more collisions than older more experienced drivers, a fact seen in their higher insurance cost as well as getting more traffic tickets and license suspensions. In other words, behind the wheel, older drivers can think better than younger drivers.

Second, older drivers can manage their emotions better than younger drivers. Look at the results from an Internet-based survey in January of 1999.

Self-admitted
aggressive driving behaviors:
"I do it on a regular basis…"

Percent who admit
doing it regularly

Test yourself:
check all those that apply to you

Young drivers
(15-24)

Older drivers
(55-83)

Swearing

66%

42%

_____

Breaking speed limit by over 15 mph

52%

19%

_____

Lane switching without signaling

36%

13%

_____

Running red lights

16%

2%

_____

Tailgating dangerously

19%

6%

_____

Cruising in the passing lane

15%

6%

_____

Making an insulting gesture (men)

42%

20%

_____

Making an insulting gesture (women)

22%

22%

_____


Based on DrDriving's Road Rage Survey on the Web http://DrDriving.org/surveys

by Dr. Leon James

The majority of young drivers swear and go over the speed limit. Young men outdo older drivers in flipping the bird, while young women are either too scared or more compassionate. Tailgating, dangerous lane hopping. and driving through red are much less common among for older drivers. Other driving behaviors that decrease with age and experience include, "Enjoying fantasies of violence", "Experiencing rage while driving" and "Feeling impatient" or "hostile" or "road rage". There is one major exception: older drivers "feel more compassion" behind the wheel.

And yet, this is not a complete picture. Older drivers are better than younger drivers, true, but there is a lot of room for improvement. They know this. When asked,

How do you rate your aggressiveness as a driver? slight 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 strong, young drivers pick 6 while older drivers pick 5. Not too much of a difference! When asked: "How much stress do you experience as a driver on a daily basis? slight 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 strong, the picture reverses itself: 33% of young drivers pick 5 or above, indicating that 1 in 3 of them spend time in the strong stress zone. For older drivers the percentage is 50. In other words, 1 in every 2 older driver aged 55+ experiences strong stress on a daily basis while driving.

There are both medical and psychological consequences to consider. Medically, stress is a killer. It does its work by lowering immune system functioning and raising the concentration of potentially harmful chemicals in the blood. If one in two older drivers experience strong stress while driving, a certain percentage of them will suffer medically unless they learn to manage driving stress. Psychologically, stress is a depressor. People tend to be more pessimistic when they are in a depressed state or mood. They are less happy and contribute to the unhappiness of others. For these various reasons it makes sense for older drivers to use their experience and maturity to use stress management skills while driving. Here are three habits that will reduce your driving stress.

1. Drive with Aloha, pretend you're from Hawaii

Even for us, living in Hawaii, it's easy to forget about Aloha during traffic hours. As drivers, we all need to reaffirm our ideal value we place on human compassion as opposed to selfishness. Supportive drivers are free from competition and criticism. They tolerate the mistakes of others. They forgive and forget. Wisdom teaches that you can't reform the bad driving behavior of other motorists. Next time you feel angry behind the wheel, start making funny sounds, to slow down your breathing. It may also make you laugh. Then talk sense to yourself. Think of the luxury of driving without having to get mad or upset. All it takes is an attitude of latitude!

2. Come out swinging positive

This is a humorous way of saying that positive behavior gives us more control over the situation than negative. If another driver picks on you, you're faced with two choices: to escalate or de-escalate. To escalate means to express your displeasure in a way that's visible to the other driver. The second you express it, you've given up control of the situation because you can't predict how the other person will respond to your provocation. But to ignore the driver can also be dangerous and you're giving up some of the control you could hold on to. You need to be hands on actively trying to do a repair job to the other person's hurt feelings. What's appropriate to do depends on the norms and expectations of the other drivers in that area. Sometimes smiling or waving is appropriate, but not always. When you are already in verbal communication, like on a parking lot, you have the opportunity to better control things if you act calm and non-blaming, especially if you appear to h a remember is that you control the situation by taking charge with positive behavior.

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by Dr. Leon James

Positive Driving Behaviors
Check those you would be willing to adopt

 
1. Putting on the turn signal in consideration of others. Thinking about how to reduce stress to others.

2. Feeling responsible for creating stress for other road users. Wanting to evolve an altruistic attitude in traffic.

3. Concentrating on developing on ramp merging skills. Many motorists inch too far, thus failing to leave enough space for picking up speed.

4. Creating positive mental scenarios and avoiding pessimism. Saying, "Traffic is not too bad. I'll just relax." vs. "Traffic is awful. I'll never get home."

5. Driving with greater awareness. Understanding the difference in people's expectations between left and right lanes. Consciously managing your following distance to keep it appropriate.

6. Consciously practicing how to handle common obstacles to traffic flow. For instance, when a lane is closed and merging is required.

7. Compensating for the 'blind spot' by always using both side and rear view mirrors for 360 degree view.

8. Merging properly when a lane is closed by keeping in your lane until you reach the cones.

9. Learning to avoid mental violence as retaliation. Not letting frustration lead to aggressiveness and hostility.

10. Avoiding the symbols of competition in driving, like racing to get there first; wanting to pass all cars; feeling ridiculed when a lot of cars pass you, etc.

11. Practicing to nod at traffic instead of shaking your head at it.

12. Recognizing higher motivations in driving, like fairness, civility, morality, altruism, religion.

13. Giving up a "laissez faire" attitude towards other drivers, like "What's happening to that driver is not my problem".

14. Be willing to figure things out ahead of time, when it affects other drivers, like when to turn, which way to go, when to change lanes. The goal is to avoid making impulsive maneuvers that other drivers can't predict.

____

____

____


____

____

____

____

____

____

____

____

____

____

____

Driving elderly requires new adjustments


Compiled by Dr. Leon James

Driving elderly requires new adjustments that challenge one's philosophy and ideology. For instance, night vision loss for some drivers is due to glare, and this does not necessarily affect their day light vision. They should thus schedule their driving times to avoid night driving, and possibly rush-hour traffic and bad weather. Sometimes they're hesitant to do this because imposing such new restrictions on one's freedom of transportation is inconvenient and carries the implication of loss of ability. Nevertheless these symbolic meanings can be re-appraised, especially by identifying with one's appropriate age-related peer group.

Automotive sociologist J. Peter Rothe has interviewed many elderly drivers and listened to them in focus groups. From these conversations we can cite some of the concerns senior motorists have about themselves and the concerns others have about them (J. Peter Rothe, The Safety of Elderly Drivers. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990).

Insufficient self-confidence due to inexperience ("After my husband passed away, everything was pushed on me.")

Anxiety due to decline in ability ("I'm sometimes a bit nervous on the blind side on my right when I'm in the left hand lane. The only way I can see is to turn my head and take a look.")

Resentment due to social ostracism ("They think older drivers are worse and should stop driving.")

Hostile behavior addressed to older drivers which they find degrading ("One time one of the ladies yelled at me in the parking lot, 'You’ve got all day but I haven't.' I guess what she thinks is we're just a bunch of old fogies.")

Lack of awareness of how family members see them as drivers, and disbelief when told of their criticisms.

Inability to see their slowness as others experience it, thinking only that slowness is caution and patience.

Increased difficulty in certain vehicle maneuvers such as parallel parking ("The curb disappears from your rear view mirror before you're really close so I have to kind of guess how far I am."

The distressing experience of information overload on multilane super-highways ("Cars are coming and going on either side and it's taken me a long time to learn to keep in my lane, to signal, to look before I get into that other lane.")

The experience of fatigue during extended driving hours on highways ("They just go on for miles and miles and there is no stimulation. It puts you to sleep.")

Frustration with signs whose letters aren't big enough or they are too similar to each other, and other problems with vision ("Driving would be easier if there were more lines, reflectors, and larger signs placed in the center, not on the side.")

Being very scared of hitting a pedestrian ("Pedestrian crossings should be better marked and lit.")

Coping with disabling diseases or injuries like arthritis, loss of vision, and other health problems. ("I just hope my health stays well enough so I can drive for a long time.")

The dread of crashing or getting into a collision ("I worry about someone going through a stop light, especially late at night with drunks."

Rigidifying of one's driving style due to a preoccupation with taking great precautions ("You don't take chances you did sixty years ago. When a car comes too fast to a stop I just wait until he stops, until I'm sure.")

Strong anxiety about being tailgated, seeing it as an infringement and an attack. ("It's a selfish invasion of my rights."

Refusing to concede that the left lane should not be a cruising lane ("I'm already driving the speed limit so I don't need to drive faster. It's my right")

Experiencing greater difficulty in talking and driving ("My friend was talking but I tried not to talk because it could have distracted me.")

Lapsing into daydreaming episodes ("Somehow I had missed the stop sign there. I didn't see it.")

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