How to Keep Seniors Safe When They Drive

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Older Americans are driving more than ever. Here's a look at how you or a loved one can stay safe behind the wheel as the years roll on.

"Americans are maintaining their licenses longer than ever before, but we need to work closely with drivers and their families to make sure they know when they can no longer drive safety," says Jake Nelson of AAA, which recently analyzed older people's driving habits.

An AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that nearly 84% of Americans age 65 or older had driver's licenses as of 2010, while only 50% had them in 1973.

Researchers also discovered that older Americans are making more trips and driving more miles than in the past. For instance, more than 75% of male drivers over 85 still use their cars at least five days per week, as do more than 60% of females in the same age group.

Older Americans are more likely to suffer from medical conditions that can impair driving, though. For example, AAA discovered that even the "youngest" older drivers -- those 65 to 69 -- are twice as likely to report such problems as drivers age 24 to 64.

Previous AAA research has found that 69% of drivers age 55 or older regularly take at least one medication that can impair automobile operation, although 48% have never discussed the issue with their doctor.

Also see: How You Can Avoid Speeding Tickets on Summer Vacation

Nelson says such statistics are troubling because accidents involving seniors often stem not from a driver's age but from physical problems or prescription drug use.

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