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Drive On! Preserve and Prolong Your Time on the Road

Drive On! Preserve and Prolong Your Time on the Road

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Drive On! Preserve and Prolong Your Time on the Road

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Lançado em:
Jul 9, 2018


Are you a Baby Boomer? A member of the post-World War II generation? Retiring or planning to retire at a time when U.S. life expectancy has never been higher?

If so, you're part of the exploding population of senior drivers on our highways. You're also helping to create potentially massive problems for our traffic planners, highway safety engineers and healthcare providers who are struggling to cope with the challenge of tens of millions of aging Americans plying the roadways.

Or are you?

In Drive On! six talented writers -- most of them senior drivers themselves -- tackle this question head-on. They sort through the many myths and misperceptions about senior drivers. They consult the best research available. And they draw on their own collective decades of experience to reach a surprising and welcome conclusion: You can stay safe behind the wheel for many years -- if you follow their advice and learn from their insights. You will also enjoy their fascinating interviews, easy-to-use self-diagnostic quizzes and compelling personal stories, all packaged within this unique, concise and most entertaining little book.

If you're a senior driver, or about the become one, Drive On! is invaluable!
Lançado em:
Jul 9, 2018

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Drive On! Preserve and Prolong Your Time on the Road - Phil Berardelli

Table of Contents

Copyright Page




1. Do We Have a Growing Problem – or Not?

2. America’s Car-Centered Lifestyle

3. Autonomy

4.Warning Signs

5. The Daisy Decelerator

6. Our Driving Brethren Aren’t Helping

7. Flavors of Aggression


8. Return to Basics

9. For Us, Maybe Even More Important

10. Those Three Little Words

11. And a Bunch More to Live By

12. Stay Cool, Be Happy

13. Meanwhile, Technology Is Riding to the Rescue


14. A Farewell to Driving?

15. There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel

16. My Family’s Story

About the Authors



Preserve and Prolong Your Time on the Road

Copyright © 2016 Phil Berardelli – All Rights Reserved


978-1-4956-0881-0 (Epub)

978-1-4956-0882-7 (Mobi)

978-1-4956-0883-4 (PDF)

Published in the United States of America

by D Street Books

a division of Mountain Lake Press

Mountain Lake Park, Maryland

Cover photo © Monkey Business Images

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a data base or other retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, including mechanical, electronic, photo-copying, recording or otherwise, without the express and written permission of the publisher.

The elderly don’t drive that badly; they’re just the only ones with time to do the speed limit.

– Jason Love

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

– Dave Barry, Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn

Have you ever noticed when you’re driving that anyone who’s driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?

– George Carlin

When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did, in his sleep – not screaming, like the passengers in his car.

– Jack Handey


by Phil Berardelli

I published my first book on safe-driving techniques in 1996. It was the natural outcome of an article I had written two years earlier for The Washington Post about teaching my daughters how to drive. When I began the project, I admit, I was interested more in making a buck than in the particular subject of the book. Such is the nature of freelance writing. Ideals are fine, but you’ve got to pay the bills. On the other hand, in order to make the effort pay, I had to produce something worth buying. So I set out to expand my original article into a detailed blueprint to help parents teach their teenagers to become, as the book’s eventual title stated, Safe Young Drivers.

Two things emerged from that process – along with a book that has remained in print and sold reliably for 20 years now. First, I began a detailed observation o that I have continued to this day. Second, I became and remain truly appalled by what I observed. As a society we are damned incompetent, dangerously so, behind the wheel, which is why tens of thousands of us die on the roads each year, and millions are injured. That assessment led me to my second book, The Driving Challenge: Dare to Be Safer and Happier on the Road, which I first published in 2001 and updated as an eBook in 2011. I have adapted some of its lessons here.

Drive On! is the third in the series, and it’s quite different. For one thing, I decided early on that the subject was too complex to cover on my own. Helping a senior driver – which I became myself three years ago – is not nearly as clear-cut as devising an instructional program for teens. It isn’t even as direct as analyzing the problem of aggressive driving and devising methods to combat that bad habit.

No. Driving among seniors is a more challenging task. That’s why I’ve called on five other authors, each of whom has amassed a particular field of expertise, to help me:

Dr. Allan F. Williams, former chief scientist for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, puts the senior-driving issue into perspective.

Lidia Wasowicz Pringle, my former colleague at United Press International and a specialist in health issues, focuses her formidable research and interviewing skills on the experiences of individual seniors and on organizations that have established programs to help our demographic.

Dr. Robert A. Comunale, a physician in family practice for many years, discusses how advancing age can translate into specific physical issues.

John Matras, a lifelong auto writer, examines how technology is helping to protect and extend the tenure of seniors on the road.

And Jessie Thorpe, my co-editor and publishing partner, connects the many themes of the book in a personal account of how they can affect families.

Together, we hope to give you the best tools available to manage driving in your senior years and, as the subtitle promises, Preserve and Prolong Your Time on the Road.

Safe and happy miles – and many more of them!


1. Do We Have a Growing Problem – or Not?

by Dr. Allan F. Williams

I want to prolong driving as long as I can, so I belong to a group that walks 3 miles a day and to an aqua exercise class. I’m well aware of what happens when you can’t drive anymore, having a friend who had her keys taken away by her doctor when she was 84. She takes the bus whenever she can, but it gets very lonely when you can’t hop into your car whenever you’ve got places to go and people to see.

– Gini M., 73

Next time you’re at a social gathering, try bringing up the subject of senior drivers. Chances are you’ll elicit a story or two about someone’s aged parent who insists on staying behind the wheel despite obvious difficulties doing so.

It’s a common theme. Families across the country are involved in disagreements – sometimes wrenching and deeply divisive – over the driving competency of their senior members, with seniors typically claiming fewer problems than their children, relatives and friends have been noticing.

Get used to it. The Baby Boomers have moved into their golden years. That bumper crop of postwar babies born between 1946 and 1964 has already begun to swell the portion of Americans ages 65 and over – estimated by the 2010 Census to be 40 million, about 13 percent of the population. By 2030 the number of U.S. seniors is expected to reach 70 million, or 20 percent of the total. Of those, nearly 10 million will be age 85 or over – and many will still be driving.

Our culture on wheels is dug in, as those of us in this group hang onto our car keys longer and rack up more miles than ever. The prospect worries some highway safety officials. Will this surge in senior drivers be accompanied by a spike in motor vehicle crashes and fatalities after decades of decline?

It’s possible. One reason is crash demographics. The high rate among teenagers begins to decline among twentysomethings and continues to ease on a long, slow curve until about age 70, when the incidents start rebounding. Then they jump markedly after age 80. Fears about a coming crash epidemic caused by older drivers also get stoked occasionally by sensational incidents, such as the one in July 2003 when an 86-year-old man accelerated into a crowd of pedestrians at a Santa Monica, California, farmers’ market, killing 10 and injuring 63.¹

Lawyers claimed that their client had confused his car’s gas and brake pedals. Then there was the episode in October 2006 in Orlando, Florida, when an 84-year-old woman crashed her car through the front window of a Sears department store and plowed through to a cash-register counter, hitting a concrete support pillar. Rescuers found that the woman’s foot had become stuck between the gas pedal and the floor.²

And in two separate but back-to-back incidents near Boston in June 2009, a 93-year-old man crashed into a Walmart entrance, injuring several shoppers, and a 73-year-old woman plowed into a group at a war memorial, injuring several more.³ ⁴


All true, but do these incidents really justify widespread concern? Well, yes and no. Yes, because on an individual level the problems of an elderly driver can be serious and even dangerous, given his or her physical or mental impairments. No, because seniors as a group have the lowest crash, fatality and injury rates of any age range. Why the dichotomy? For one thing, even though seniors are driving more and longer, their licensing rates and average miles driven are lower than for younger drivers, and these trends should hold up even with the influx of the Baby Boomers. For another, though the oldest seniors post higher crash rates per miles driven than all age groups except teens, they’re also more likely than younger drivers to reside in dense urban areas, where crash rates in general are higher than on freeways and multilane roads.

Bottom line: If you examine the statistics carefully, you’ll find that all but the oldest seniors remain among the safest drivers on the road.

The Fragility Factor

There is one area where senior drivers tend to fare worse than their younger counterparts: injuries and fatalities. The reason is physiology. Our resident geriatric specialist, Dr. Robert Comunale, will cover this topic in more detail, but basically the problem has to do with the growing fragility of the human body that can begin as early as the 60s and accounts for more than half of senior deaths on the road.

In other words, many if not most of senior fatalities and injuries on the highway occur because the drivers’ aging bodies are beginning to let them down. They die in situations that younger drivers tend to survive. That goes for their passengers as well, who also tend to be seniors. And in terms of fatalities, senior drivers mostly harm themselves. The frightening instances I described above notwithstanding, seniors tend not to kill others on the road.

A Favorable Trend

Taken altogether, the crash-involvement picture for seniors is decidedly mixed. They aren’t the menace they’re sometimes portrayed to be. In fact, there’s even some good news: Over the past decade the crash risk for senior drivers has been declining more than for middle-age drivers. Between 1997 and 2008, for example, fatal passenger vehicle crashes per senior driver fell by 37 percent, compared with a 23-percent drop among drivers ages 35–54. Moreover, drivers ages 80 and up experienced an even steeper decline: 49 percent.

These trends were quite unexpected. If fatal crash rates for senior drivers had mirrored the trends for middle-age drivers during these years, about 10,000 additional seniors would have been killed. Injuries and property damage also decreased more for seniors than for the younger group, and even the likelihood of an older person surviving a crash is getting better.

Frankly, we in the highway safety community don’t fully understand the reasons for these findings, but it might have something to do with improvements in the health and physical conditioning of seniors, as well as advances in emergency medical services and trauma care.


There’s another possibility related to this unanticipated good news: Seniors might be doing a proper job of policing themselves, modifying their driving as they sense diminished abilities to negotiate the roads.

I suspect many do this on their own or in response, perhaps reluctantly, to the advice – or maybe pleadings – of family or friends. We know about some of this from surveys, in which seniors say they are limiting their driving, a practice that increases with age. We also know that seniors with impairments in vision, memory, physical functioning and various medical conditions are most likely to do so.

The self-limiting sometimes involves giving up driving entirely. But for those still on the roads it typically involves driving less often, confining trips to shorter distances within well-known areas and, particularly, avoiding nighttime hours. Some of it also could be because seniors are heeding the materials distributed by the American Automobile Association, AARP, and the American Medical Association, among other organizations. All are working to help seniors and their family members understand how aging affects driving. They have provided useful information on the effects of medications and health conditions and, in general, how to cope with difficulties experienced on the roads.

Assistance from Passengers

Another factor could be enhancing the driving safety of seniors: passengers. It’s well known that passengers can be deadly for teenage drivers, with the mutual horseplay and distractions creating a greatly elevated risk for major crashes. For seniors, however, the presence of passengers is protective. New research suggests that crash rates are lower when seniors drive with a passenger than when they drive alone, and the protection is strongest for older male drivers.

What’s going on? It turns out that passengers can be helpful copilots by keeping drivers alert, assisting with navigation, warning of impending hazards, and operating the radio, heat and air-conditioning controls, or using the cell phone.

It makes sense. Many older driver/older passenger combinations are married couples who have long-established ways of interacting – outside as well as inside the vehicle. Also, among senior couples, the person who is more able tends to do the driving.

Sticky Questions

Now here’s something imponderable currently surrounding senior drivers: How well do they compensate for their impairments, either alone or using help from their passengers? It’s difficult to know. Though many seniors show no signs of impairment that would affect their driving, others do and need to make adjustments. But we lack good data on how they’re sorting it out.

For one thing, seniors might not even recognize they are developing certain visual defects, such as a narrowing field of view. For another, they might sense a condition that is negatively affecting their driving but haven’t tried to compensate for it. Or, they might be amenable to persuasion from their spouse or regular passenger, but that person hasn’t noticed the condition yet. In such cases these are not easy adjustments for seniors to make. Also, a senior thinking about hemming in or giving up driving might be constrained by the logistical dilemma of finding alternative transportation, something that often requires the help of family members.

What if a debilitation begins to appear and the senior has no ready alternative to driving? In some states, physicians are legally obligated to report certain medical conditions to licensing authorities. Does that mean the senior will delay or stop going to the doctor to hide that condition?

What about the physician? Many doctors are reluctant to counsel their patients about driving decisions – especially long-standing patients. Instead, they might refer the senior to an occupational therapist or a driver-rehabilitation program. Good steps, but such options can be expensive.

Then there’s the male angle. Many older men insist on driving indefinitely, and studies indicate that men – no surprise – are the least likely to self-regulate. The result is a large but unknown number of seniors who are continuing to drive but should not. My co-author Jessie Thorpe describes such a situation in the last chapter.

New Trends

All of this represents a new and encouraging way of framing senior driving issues. It’s a departure from earlier times, when we professionals would focus more on impairments and on identifying those who should be removed from the roads. Two shifts have been under way for some time – in the United States and in other countries where seniors make up a significant portion of the driving population. One involves discarding the notion that links an elevated crash risk with all senior drivers. Instead, researchers and safety officials have begun focusing on the specific portions of the demographic at greatest risk.

The second and related development recognizes that the core of the senior crash problem primarily involves people with conditions that no longer allow them to drive safely, conditions that are irreversible, such as severe dementia or uncontrolled seizures. The question, then, becomes which older drivers are at higher risk?


Given what we’ve learned, it’s clear that restricting driving based solely on age or common stereotypes is not appropriate policy. Senior drivers encompass a wide age range, spanning over 20 years. Some 85 year-olds are more capable drivers than 65 year-olds, and within any age there is a broad range of competencies.

The generalizations work both ways. You can read much in the popular literature about the healthy, happy golden age that combines wisdom and competence. It’s different from the past, when seniors were often portrayed negatively. But glamorizing old age has its limits as well. For example, in Susan Jacoby’s book Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age, she writes that among the old old, meaning those in their late 80s and beyond, degenerative, chronic and irreversible conditions become increasingly common. Bottom line: Mobility and independence for seniors are important, but maintaining these

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