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When Should Seniors Lose Driving Privileges?

A new survey highlights the importance of talking with older family members and friends about their transportation needs and driving abilities, and when to limit their time behind the wheel. This resource can help you get started.

We Need to Talk: Family Conversations With Older Drivers” is a product of the Hartford Financial Services Group and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Age Lab. The 24-page guide explains how to assess a person’s transportation needs and how best to initiate talks about driving safety.

Clearly, such talks can be “uncomfortable,” the guide notes. But among surveyed older adults who reported that someone had talked with them about their driving, “more than half said they followed the suggestions of others,” Hartford and MIT note. (And “women generally complied more readily than men.”)

The survey that brings this need to mind is titled “Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile,” published last week by TRIP, a Washington-based transportation research group, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The report notes that the country’s transportation system “lacks many features that would accommodate the level of mobility and safety older Americans desire and expect.” As such, the study lays out a set of recommendations that address these deficiencies.

At the same time, the survey points to some disturbing statistics. While overall fatality rates in auto accidents have dropped of late, the number of older drivers “killed or involved in fatal crashes remains disproportionately high.”

More specifically, in 2010, there were 5,750 fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver age 65 or older, the study says. And while drivers 65 and older account for just 8% of all miles driven in the U.S., 17% of all traffic fatalities occurred in crashes where at least one driver was age 65 or older.

Hartford offers several additional guides that can help families with driving and safety issues. Among them:

“Your Road Ahead: A Guide to Comprehensive Driving Evaluations.” Describes the benefits of such evaluations from an occupational therapist with specialized driver evaluation training.

“At the Crossroads: Family Conversations About Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia and Driving.” Helps families determine when an older driver should give up his or her keys and helps them cope with the decision.

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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.