Why These Groups of People Don’t Drive

A 68-year old man, who lives and works in the city of angels, has not been happy lately. Reason: he had to stop driving, something he would rather not have done if circumstances allowed him.

Monday morning, a 43-year-old woman who lives in Los Angeles is driving to work humming her favourite rock song with the stereo on blast.

A 68-year old man, who also lives and works in the city of angels, has not been happy lately. Reason: he had to stop driving, something he would rather not have done if circumstances allowed him.

He now has to contend with being driven to work every day, glued to the back left seat of his SUV. There is nothing else to do for him except look out of the window and reminisce the good old days behind the wheel.

There are various groups of people who do not drive, and the reasons vary. According to the American Bureau of Transportation Statistics, disability is a major reason why some people do not drive. The website also lists considerations to stop driving as another reason why people steer clear of the wheel.

The bureau arrived at its findings after conducting a nationwide survey and calculating the respective weighted percentages and standard errors using the gathered data and the determined categories.

  • The weighted system calculates grades as a percentage out of 100%. How much each grade contributes to its category and thus the final grade is the percentage value (weight) assigned to them.
  • The standard error is a statistical method that measures the accuracy with which a sample distribution represents a population by using standard deviation. 
A man riding a bicycle on a road in Athens, Greece on April 3, 2018. There are groups of people who do not drive cars for various reasons. [Image Source: Angelo Pantazis]

People Living With Disability

According to data shared by the bureau, 3.5 million Americans never leave their homes, constituting a national homebound percentage of over 1%. Of the more than half of the people who don’t leave their homes, 1.9 million people are people living with disabilities. Meanwhile, a massive chunk of people living with disabilities (62%) and those living without disabilities (88%) leave their homes five to seven days a week.

Table 1: Comparing frequency at which disabled and nondisabled people leave their homes in the United States. [Image Source: American Bureau of Transportation Statistics}

People living with disabilities who never leave their homes tend to be older (average age 66) and have more severe disabilities (58% of this group report their conditions as severe) than the disabled who leave their homes at least once a week (average age 50 and 22% reporting severe disabilities).

It is also a herculean task for disabled people who never leave home to get means of transport (29%) compared to disabled people who get out of their homes once a week or more (11%). Of the disabled people who frequently leave their houses, mostly five to seven days a week, most (14%) need help to leave their homes and 8% of this lot have trouble getting the transportation they need.

Table 2: Comparing frequency at which disabled and nondisabled people leave their homes in the United States. [Image Source: American Bureau of Transportation Statistics}

Special Assistance

Approximately twenty-three percent of individuals living with disabilities require specialized assistance when they decide to leave their homes to go about their duties.

48%— need walkers, canes, or crutches

An old person using a walker to help him walk. [Image Source: Dmitry Shamis]

33% — need human assistance when they leave their homes

A young man helping an elderly woman walk [Image Source: ehow.com]

22% — need manual wheelchairs

A younger woman helping her elderly counterpart move in her wheelchair. [Image: Eugene Chystiakov]

16% — need human assistance while still in their homes

A Senior woman receiving assistance getting out of a chair. [Image Source: Masterfile]

10% — need electric scooters or electric wheelchairs

A person with physical disability moving around in an electric wheelchair. {Image Source: Jon Tyson]

8% — need oxygen

A man seated on a chair with oxygen in his nose. {Image Source: British Lung Foundation}

Local Travel and Mode Choice

People opt for different modes of transportation for local travel. Approximately 62% of people living with disability who were 15 years or older and approximately 86% of the non-disabled who were 15 years or older drove cars in the month prior to the interview to work, for medical appointments, for shopping, and for local travel alongside other purposes. 77% of the people living with disabilities and 82% of the nondisabled were ferried in personal motor vehicles as passengers for local travel.

Forty-seven per cent of people living with disabilities preferred to walk (which includes the use of a non-motorized wheelchair or scooter as per the Bureau of Transportation Statistics survey) for local travel during the month preceding the interview compared to 58% of people living without disability.

Graph 1: Popularity of the different modes of transport among disabled and non-disabled people during the survey period. [Image Source: American Bureau of Transportation Statistics}

Conversely, a larger percentage of the nondisabled, 33 per cent, rode bicycles or other pedal cycles compared to 18 per cent of people living with a disability.

A larger proportion of people without disability used carpools or vanpools/group cars or vans (14 per cent), school buses (11 per cent), and subway/light rail/commuter trains (9 per cent) than disabled persons (11 per cent, 5 per cent, and 6 per cent, respectively) for local travel.

When it came to transportation means designed to assist people living with disability, only 6% used motorized personal transportation, such as golf carts, scooters, or electric wheelchairs; 6% used paratransit vans or buses sponsored by the public transit authority, and 3 per cent used specialized transportation services provided by human services agencies.

Drivers Who Heed Considerations to Quit Driving

This group of people doesn’t drive for various reasons, such as age, as captured in the first paragraph of this story. However, age takes its toll on people, making them self-regulate.

According to the Northern Ireland Department of Health, drivers must renew their driving licenses every three years as soon as they turn 70 years old, but no law dictates the mandatory age when drivers should steer clear of the wheel.

However, the law requires drivers to tell the Driver & Vehicle Agency about any medical conditions that might affect their ability to drive safely. In addition, this law requires the drivers to disclose previous conditions and new conditions that might hinder them.

Failure to adhere to this law leads to prosecution, while the insurance company will not cover such accidents.

The region’s health department recommends quitting the wheel when a driver notices that their reactions are slower than what they were. Drivers are also advised to give up driving when they find traffic conditions too stressful to bear, when they sense physical limitations or when their eyesight deteriorates.

A close up of the hands of an old man driving. [Image Source: Linas Drulia]

A report dubbed Driving Life Expectancy of Persons Aged 70 Years and Older in the United States authored by doctors: Daniel J. Foley MS, Harley K. Heimovitz Ph.D., Jack M. Guralnik MD Ph.D. and Dwight B.Brock Ph.D. published online in the American Journal of Public Health October 2011 found that compared with middle-aged drivers, older drivers have an about 3-fold increased risk of crashing per mile driven.

“Although the annual risk of crashing remains fairly stable over the years of driving, the risk of dying after involvement in an automobile crash increases significantly with age. Compared with middle-aged drivers of the same sex and involved in the same severity of crash, older drivers are 3 times more likely to die as a result of the crash. Nearly 5000 drivers aged 70 years and older were involved in fatal crashes in 1999, a 42% increase in the number over the preceding decade”

Report: Driving Life Expectancy of Persons Aged 70 Years and Older in the United States

“In general, older drivers decide for themselves when to quit, a decision that often stems from the onset and progression of medical conditions that affect visual, physical, and cognitive functioning and consequently driving skill. In addition, studies show that cessation is not an easy decision and may have consequences such as depressed mood and less social engagement due to loss of mobility.”

REPORT: DRIVING LIFE EXPECTANCY OF PERSONS AGED 70 YEARS AND OLDER IN THE UNITED STATES

The authors arrived at this conclusion after examining two sets of survey data to assess life changes like health and socioeconomic situation of “households selected with a complex, multistage area probability design that included oversampling of Blacks, Hispanics, and Florida residents” aged 70 years and older in the USA.

Environmental Sticklers

In an opinion article published in The Guardian in May 2019, George Monbiot, a British writer known for his environmental activism, opined that driving is a time bomb that is ruining more lives than it is helping build.

According to Monbiot, in the UK, every year, there is an influx of new cars, both used and new, which in turn leads to the building of new roads in urban areas and rural areas leading to noise, air, and aesthetic pollution.

An image showing how cars stuck in traffic pollute the air through emissions let into the air by exhaust pipes. {Image Source: DHA Photo}

He writes that a switch to electronic cars only addresses part of the issues and not all since they still need tyres and roads.

His solution? Monbiot avers that transport should be planned albeit with very different aims, including the development of separate bike lanes and broad pavements as well as a wholesale transition to electronic mass transit.

There is scientific evidence to back Monbiot’s argument.

Research published by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health in February 2018 found that “pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today”.

“Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide—three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence. In the most severely affected countries, pollution-related disease is responsible for more than one death in four.”

The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.

In the same breath, data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released in November 2020 showed that asthma-related deaths were on the rise in the country for the second year running, especially for women.

The figures commissioned by the National Asthma Council Australia showed 421 asthma-related deaths recorded in Australia in 2019, consisting of 272 females and 149 males, a jump from 395 in 2018 (254 females and 141 males).

An article published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reaffirmed multiple research papers that have linked asthma with exposure to air pollution.

“Air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger asthma attacks. The estimated six million children in the United States with asthma are especially vulnerable to air pollution.”

US EPA.

Understanding non-drivers

For some people, the time is up and they have to settle for the back seat. It is probably for the best that the elderly become passengers before road accidents occur.

Meanwhile, another section feels they would serve themselves and society best if they let others do the driving since they notice their own limitations.

For environmentalists, however, it is standing for change in society, backed by data that says that the time for change is now.