Study: Exercise Keeps Older Drivers Safer, Longer
New AAA research shows fatigue and poor physical health are leading factors that cause older adults to stop driving
DENVER (May 1, 2019) – Want to keep driving safely, well into your golden years? A few simple steps, such as weekly exercise and stretching, can improve safe-driving abilities and keep older adults on the road longer. That's the takeaway from new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which found that increased fatigue and poor physical functioning often result in older adults giving up their car keys.
The AAA Foundation commissioned researchers at Columbia University to evaluate eight domains – depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance, pain interference, physical functioning, pain intensity, and participation in social activities – to determine how changes in physical, mental, and social health affect driving mobility for older adults. The report found that fatigue and poor physical functioning are most common among older drivers who spend less time behind the wheel.
"Older adults who give up the keys are more likely to suffer from depression than those who remain behind the wheel," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "The good news is we can seriously extend older drivers' mobility by finding ways to keep them in good physical health."
Research shows that daily exercise and stretching can help older drivers improve overall body flexibility and move more freely to observe the road from all angles. Physical strength also helps drivers remain alert to potential hazards on the road and perform essential driving functions, such as:
- Looking to the side and rear
- Adjusting the safety belts
- Sitting for long periods of time
"Some decline in physical fitness is inevitable as we age," McKinley said. "Still, research shows that exercise doesn't have to be strenuous to produce positive results. You can spread out the time you spend being physically active over the course of your day and week. A few minutes at a time are enough to keep you driving safely for longer."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend older adults, who are physically able, get between 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week, or between 75 minutes and 2.5 hours of high-intensity physical activity. The exercises should include balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Older adults should consult their doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. They should also talk with a healthcare provider about ways to combat fatigue. Prioritizing getting at least seven hour of sleep each night can help older adults stay alert behind the wheel.
AAA recommends a series of stretches to improve neck, shoulder, trunk, back and overall body flexibility. As the leading advocate for senior driver safety, AAA also offers a variety of programs and resources to help older adults improve their driving performance and avoid crashes. For more information on AAA resources, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
Recognizing that lifestyle changes, and innovative technologies and medical advancements will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety launched a ground-breaking, multi-year research program to more fully understand and meet the safety and mobility needs of older drivers in the United States. The AAA LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) study is one of the largest and most comprehensive databases available on senior drivers incorporating 2,990 participants being followed for five years. It will support in-depth studies of senior driving and mobility to better understand risks and develop effective countermeasures.
About the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation's mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
About AAA Colorado
More than 685,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's most-trusted advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 59 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit AAA.com.