The distracted driving habits of young drivers have received a lot of media attention, with reports of Snapchatting, tweeting, texting and other dangerous behaviors. However, there has been a lack of data on whether seniors also engage in these behaviors behind the wheel.
A team of researchers at the Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety (TREDS) program at University of California San Diego School of Medicine has released survey results describing the habits of senior drivers in California.
The survey represented 397 anonymous adults, age 65 and older, assessing the relationship between their driving habits and potential distraction behaviors. Eighty-two percent of participants owned a smartphone.
“The survey results found older adults are driving distracted less than their younger counterparts, but are still engaging in this dangerous behavior,” said Linda Hill, MD, MPH, professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Of those senior drivers who have a cell phone, 60 percent of them speak on the phone while behind the wheel, and seniors with a skewed sense of their multi-tasking abilities are most likely to engage in this behavior.”
Some older drivers suffer from medical conditions that reduce their ability to drive safely, such as vision deterioration, frailty and cognitive impairment. Additionally, some medications can cause side effects that impair driving skills. Older drivers may also have reduced attention and mental processing speed.