Study: Seniors' Idea Of Driving Ability May Not Match Skills

Megan Ray  |  May 31, 2012

A recent study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) indicates many seniors may overestimate their driving ability. Caregivers should be sure to take this into account when discussing with seniors whether or not they should give up their keys.

Approximately 350 adult drivers with a mean age of 74 were asked to rate their current driving ability, as well as list any incidents on the road over the past five years. Approximately 85 percent of these seniors said their ability on the road was either "excellent" or "good." Less than 1 percent listed their driving ability as "fair," and none of the seniors in the study said they were "poor" drivers.

Unfortunately, this was in contrast to the self-reported incidents on the road. Approximately 25 percent of the seniors had been in a crash within the past five years. Of this group, some had multiple incidents on the road. The researchers found no correlation between the accidents seniors had gotten in on the road and their own opinion of their driving ability.

"A large debate in driving research is whether or not at-risk drivers can self-regulate, and thus possibly reduce their crash risk. This research indicates that, at least for this sample, a previous history of four adverse driving outcomes has no relationship with self-reported driving ability, thus possibly indicating a lack of awareness in regards to driving abilities," said Lesley Ross, author of the study. "The majority of older adults can continue to drive safely well into old age. However, there is a group of older drivers who are at greater risk for crashing."

Many caregivers may have trouble broaching the topic of stopping driving with an older adult, especially if the senior claims he or she is still an excellent driver. However, this is an important topic for seniors and caregivers to discuss. A senior care community may be able to help with this issue, and caregivers should be sure to choose an elder care facility that provides transportation.