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Driver Preparedness: A 2014 Survey of Drivers Age 30+

As drivers hit the road during one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, it is imperative that they prepare their vehicle and make plans to ensure their trip is as safe and smooth as possible. Drivers may prepare for a trip by inspecting their car and ensuring it is up-to-date on its recommended services, telling someone other than fellow travelers when they expect to arrive at their destination, and having the proper items in their vehicle in case of an emergency.

Learn: Find more reports from AARP Research

By offering the nation’s largest driver refresher course designed for older drivers, AARP Driver Safety is committed to helping drivers feel prepared and confident before getting behind the wheel. Hence, in order to understand how drivers prepare and plan for car trips, AARP surveyed 1,202 licensed drivers age 30 and older who drive at least once a week and take car trips.

Key findings include:

  • In general, drivers age 30 and older (98%) feel prepared before taking a car trip of 50 miles or more, with 84% feeling very prepared and 14% feeling somewhat prepared. 
  • Likewise, drivers report ensuring their vehicle is prepared before taking a trip of 50 miles or more. Specifically, roughly eight-in-ten report always ensuring their mirrors are adjusted properly (89%), checking dashboard warning lights and addressing any related problems (84%) and ensuring their vehicle is up to date on its recommended services (80%).  A majority of drivers also report always checking that their headlights are working (64%), checking the oil level in their car (57%), checking their windshield wipers (53%), and checking their tire pressure (51%).
  • In general, the extent to which drivers engage in vehicle preparation increases with age.   For example, older drivers (age 50+) are particularly likely to always ensure their mirrors are adjusted properly, ensure their vehicle is up-to-date on recommended services, check that their windshield wipers are in good condition, and check their tire pressure. 
  • Drivers also engage in a variety of planning behaviors, at least sometimes, before taking a trip of 50 miles or more. A majority of drivers report always telling someone when they expect to arrive at their destination (62%), and planning to avoid rush hour traffic (54%).  Over four-in-ten report always packing food or planning where to eat (44%), while 38 percent report sometimes doing this.  Additionally, a third say they always plan where they will stop to rest (30%), while roughly four-in-ten (38%) say they sometimes do this.
  • Drivers generally engage in the vehicle preparation measures more often than the planning measures tested in the survey.  For example, while 80% always make sure their vehicle is up-to-date on services, only 26% always plan to avoid driving in dimly-lit conditions.
  • In general, the frequency in which drivers plan to avoid potentially challenging or risky driving situations increases with age.  For example, older drivers, particularly those age 65 and older, were more likely than their younger counterparts to always make alternative plans for bad weather, plan to avoid driving in dimly-lit conditions, choose a route that avoids confusing intersections, and choose a route that avoids high speed roads. 
  • Drivers understand the importance of having certain safety items in their car when taking trips. For example, over nine-in-ten say that a spare tire (98%), a cell phone (96%), and cash (92%) are important items to have in their car.  Furthermore, drivers report typically having these items in their car when taking a trip.  For example, over nine-in-ten report typically having a spare tire (99%), a cell phone (96%), and cash (92%) in their car. However, in some cases, there is a discrepancy between the percentage of drivers who believe an item is important and the percentage of drivers who typically have the item in their car.  Most notably, seven-in-ten respondents believe flares, warning triangles and reflectors are important, while only 37 percent say they typically have them in their car. 
  • Perhaps in part due to the preparation and planning behaviors drivers already engage in, most drivers  do not worry about potential challenges they may face, such as getting lost or their car breaking down. A majority of drivers, however, do worry about adverse weather conditions.
  • Roughly half of drivers (54%) typically use a navigation system when taking a trip of 50 miles or more.  Although the use of navigation systems decreases with age, four-in-ten drivers age 65+ typically use the device when taking trips.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of adults belong to a roadside assistance program.  This figure increases with age, with eight-in-ten drivers age 65+ (77%) belonging to a program.  Drivers also report having the phone number of the roadside assistance program readily available when traveling in their car.
  • The overwhelming majority of drivers say that they know how to change a tire (80%) and jump-start a car (81%)

Data was collected for this study via telephone interviews with a sample of 1,202 respondents age 30 and older drawn at random from the United States.  The interviews were conducted in English by Woelfel Research, Inc. from October 1 to October 11, 2014.  The results from the study were weighted by age and gender.  For more information, contact Sarah Conroy at sconroy@aarp.org

To learn more about AARP Driver Safety, visit www.aarp.org/drive.

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