Study: Most elderly drivers are on prescription drugs

(AAA) Unlike previous generations, the nation’s elderly are spending more time behind the wheel, not less according to a study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  The study revealed that 84 percent of Americans 65 or older had a driver’s license in 2010 compared to barely half in the early 1970’s.  One in six drivers on the road is 65 or older and they’re taking more trips and traveling more miles than ever before.

The report titled Understanding Older Drivers: An Examination of Medical Conditions, Medication Use and Travel Behaviors, revealed that 90 percent of older drivers also use prescription drugs with two-thirds taking multiple medications.

Previous Foundation research has shown that combinations of medications, both prescription and over- the-counter, can result in an impairment in safe driving ability.

“This level of medication use does raise concerns, yet evidence indicates seniors are fairly cautious,” said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA Chicago. “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.”

The report also reveals gender differences when it comes to medication-use behind the wheel. Older women that use medications are more likely to regulate their driving compared to men and, even without a medical condition, female drivers drive less than their male counterparts with a medical condition.

Additional key highlights from the report include:

  • 25 percent 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.
  • 68 percent drivers age 85 or older report driving five or more days per week.
  • Three-quarters of drivers ages 65 and older with a medical condition report reduced daily driving.
  • Self-regulatory behavior, among those taking multiple medications or having a medical condition, declines with increasing income. Female drivers ages 65-69 with an annual income under $13,000 were 62 percent more likely to restrict nighttime driving than women with incomes over $70,000.

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