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AARP Driver Safety Survey: Perceptions and Attitudes of Drivers Age 50+ in New York

Many drivers age 50+ in New York have been driving for decades, and hence carry with them a breadth of knowledge and experience.  Yet, with age, our minds and bodies may change in ways that can impact driving.  Additionally, both the roads and vehicles have changed over time, making it important for drivers to refresh their knowledge and skills.  

Learn: Find more reports from AARP Research

The AARP Smart Driver Course, offered by AARP Driver Safety, is a driver refresher course designed for older drivers.  It serves to fine tune driving skills, update drivers on the rules of the road and offer strategies that one may apply in the context of a changing driving environment.  

Hence, to understand the perceptions, attitudes and knowledge of active and experienced 50+ drivers, AARP surveyed 502 New Yorkers who met the following criteria:

  •  Are age 50 and older,
  • Have been licensed to drive for 20 or more years,
  • Are currently licensed to drive in New York,
  • Drive at least once a week;
  • And have not taken a driver safety course within the last 10 years

Key Findings

  • Driving is very important to the 50+ driver. An overwhelming majority of respondents report that driving plays an important role in their life (95%), and that they depend a lot on driving to get where they need to go (82%). Furthermore, 50+ drivers are very likely to agree that driving gives them independence (97%), and the ability to socialize and connect with others (87%).  They also agree that they would have to rely on others (84%) and that it would be difficult to carry out daily routines if they did not drive (89%).
  • Drivers recognize that the driving environment has changed over time.  Specifically, respondents agree that technology in cars is becoming more advanced (95%), that there is more traffic on the roads today (92%), that the roads have changed (86%), and that driving laws have changed (74%).  This reinforces the need for a driver refresher course.
  • Respondents were presented with six statements that describe possible mind and body changes related to aging that may impact driving.  Seven-in-ten (71%) respondents agree that they have experienced at least one of these changes.  The changes that respondents were most likely to report experiencing include not seeing as well as they used to when driving at night (56%) and noticing a decrease in reaction time (29%).   Respondents were least likely to agree that they take medications that may affect their driving (11%).  However, according to other AARP research, seven in ten (71%) adults age 45 and older take prescription medications on a regular basis.  This may be an indication that adults are unaware how certain medications could impact driving.
  • When it comes to basic rules of the road, the 50+ driver is knowledgeable.  With decades of experience, the respondents surveyed were knowledgeable about select rules of the road that were tested.  Among the rules tested in the survey, respondents were least aware that drivers are required to stop for school buses on the opposite side of a divided highway in New York and that drivers should not use high beams in heavy fog, with roughly one-in-five reporting the wrong answer.
  • Receiving an auto insurance discount, maintaining independence and becoming a safer driver are important reasons to take a driver safety course.  Specifically, roughly six-in-ten respondents say receiving an insurance discount (68%), becoming a safer driver (64%) and maintaining independence (60%) are important reasons to take a course.  Furthermore, over eight-in-ten (84%) respondents believe that a driver safety course would be helpful for drivers age 50 and older. 

The RDD sample of 50+ New York residents was drawn at random from the United States adult population in telephone households.   The interviews were conducted in English by Woelfel Research, Inc. from July 15 to July 30, 2014.  The results from the study were weighted by age and gender.  For more information, contact Sarah Conroy at

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