WASHINGTON, DC (Nov. 25, 2013) — As baby boomers enter the over 65 age bracket, the concern for older drivers’ safety and independence is greater now than at any time in our history. More than 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day, a trend expected to continue for the next 19 years. And by the year 2040, 1 in 5 Americans will be 70 or older.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 17% of all traffic fatalities in the United States were among people age 65 and older in 2001. Of the 1,276 people killed in car crashes that year in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, 207 involved people over age 65. Adults 65 and older make up more than 16% of all licensed drivers, nationwide. And the numbers are growing as baby-boomers age.
With increasing age come changes in physical, mental and sensory abilities that can challenge a person's continued ability to drive safely. But there are a variety of safe travel options for people of all ages. The real need is a broader awareness of the solutions, rather than a narrow focus on the problem.
Help is available to drivers and their families. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) along with AAA, AARP Driver Safety, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and other organizations are raising awareness of ways to keep older drivers safe on the road through AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (Dec. 2-6, 2013).
Held annually on the first week of December, the campaign raises awareness of the growing population of older adults and their transportation needs. Each day covers a theme critical to empowering older drivers and their families:
“Just as we plan for our financial futures, we need to plan for our transportation futures as we age,” says Elin Schold Davis, OTR/L, CDRS, project coordinator of AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Initiative. “Respecting the physical, cognitive, and sensory changes that come with age may require adjustments in driving patterns, vehicle equipment, or a skills refresher, but do not have to mean giving up the keys and living in isolation without access to transportation. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is dedicated to building awareness of the growing array of options available to seniors to support their goal of driving safety and maintaining an active lifestyle. Occupational therapists certified in driver rehabilitation offer drivers an individualized evaluation to explore the range of solutions to stay on the road safely and confidently.”
To learn more about AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, visit http://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/Older-Driver-Safety-Awareness-Week.aspx. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week national endorsers also have dedicated websites providing public and health professionals with useful, timely information: AAA (www.seniordriving.aaa.com), AARP Driver Safety (www.aarp.org/drive), and The Hartford (www.SafeDrivingforaLifetime.com), and NHTSA (www.nhtsa.gov).
The American Occupational Therapy Association’s Older Driver Safety Coordinator, Elin Schold Davis, OTR/L, CDRS, will visit the Washington, DC area Dec. 2 and 3, to share her perspectives about empowering older drivers; the role that family members have in addressing the issue, the importance of an evaluation, and safe alternatives if driving is no longer an option. She will be available for interview to help identify the ways that families can empower older drivers and see the important role of occupational therapy practitioners in the safety of the aging population.
To schedule an interview with Elin Schold Davis on addressing the needs of aging drivers, call Media Relations Manager Katie Riley, 301-652-6611, ext. 2963 or e-mail, email@example.com.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.