Americans love to drive. More than 75 percent of adults carry a driver’s license, including 40 million who are 65 and older, according to Consumer Reports.
But driving is more than just a passion or a pastime: It’s a lifeline. Studies show that giving up driving increases a person’s mortality risk and makes seniors more likely to land in nursing homes and suffer from depression. Yet the average American man outlives his ability to drive by six years, and the average American woman by 10 years.
Eventually, physical or cognitive limitations (or both) make driving safely difficult or impossible for most older people, compelling them to hang up their car keys for good. The problem is that most of them have no other way of getting around.
Consumer Reports lists these programs that can enhance your abilities and increase safety behind the wheel.
This free nationwide educational program developed with AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association helps seniors see more from the driver’s seat.
During a 20-minute drive-up appointment (usually held in parking lots at senior centers, hospitals and public parks), specialists train drivers to adjust mirrors and seating height, and to find the correct distance from the pedal and steering wheel to give them the clearest possible sight lines and safest position for driving.
Will CarFit keep you safer? The jury is out on this one, said Dennis McCarthy, a professor and senior driving researcher at Nova Southeastern University who stages CarFit programs in Florida. But it does teach senior drivers the benefits of being properly positioned in a car and puts them in contact with experts who can answer questions and suggest a check-in with a physician or an ophthalmologist if one is needed. The program’s website, car-fit.org, includes a searchable calendar and map with listings for about 300 events per year.
AARP Driver Programs
Last year, AARP led continuing driver-education courses for 360,000 classroom participants and another 130,000 participants online, says Kyle Rakow, the vice president and national director of AARP Driver Safety. State regulations shape the curriculum and course duration: Four to eight hours is a typical length.
The fee is usually $15 to $25, and the car insurance savings can be considerable: 10 percent in a few states, including New York and Georgia.
Classes can be found on the AARP website, aarp.org/findacourse.