Today's seniors continue to drive at older ages than previous generations, and the vast majority of them use prescription medications, according to a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
In 2010, 84 percent of Americans 65 and older held a driver's license, compared to about half of the 65-and-older population in the early 1970s. Seniors who continue driving also log more miles on average than seniors did 20 years ago. The average number of daily trips per driver 65 or older increased 20 percent from 1990 to 2009, and the number of miles traveled increased 33 percent.
The report, "Understanding Drivers: An Examination of Medical Conditions, Medication Use and Travel Behaviors," found that 90 percent of older drivers take prescription medication and two-thirds take multiple medications.
"This level of medication use does raise concerns, yet evidence indicates seniors are fairly cautious," AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger said in a press statement. "In fact, these findings show that older drivers using medications are more likely to regulate their driving - reducing daily travel, avoiding driving at night or driving fewer days per week."
Older women who take medication are more likely to regulate their driving compared to men, and women overall drive less than men. In fact, women not taking a medication drive less than men with a medical condition.
Other findings include:
- A quarter 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.
- About 68 percent of drivers age 85 or older report driving five or more days per week.
- Three-quarters of drivers age 65 and older with a medical condition report reduced daily driving.
- Among drivers who take multiple medications or have medical conditions, higher-income seniors are less likely to cut their driving than lower-income drivers. Women ages 65 to 69 with an annual income under $13,000 were 62 percent more likely to restrict nighttime driving than women with incomes over $70,000.
AAA developed Roadwise Rx, an online tool to help seniors and their families understand the common side-effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and foods. Users can enter the medications and supplements they take, and the tool provides confidential information about how those could impact safety behind the wheel.