United States, and this will increase to about 25 percent in 2030. That figure will be even greater in states with a higher percentage of older people. The importance of these observations is that policy needs to focus on the right issues. If people remain committed to the myth that older people rely on public transit, policies will not address reality.
A second myth is that travel differences between genders are narrowing—this also is not so. Women take fewer trips, travel fewer miles, and drive less than men. These gaps are widening. When they do travel in cars, women are in the passenger seat. This has significant implications for the mobility of aging women and for their safety as drivers. What makes older drivers dangerous is that they drive less. The more one drives, the safer a driver one is. Women report such reasons as anxiety, not medical causes, for giving up driving. Women stop driving earlier and for less specific reasons than men; by contrast, the precipitating event for a man to give up driving is the third stroke or heart attack. Women at all ages are safer drivers and have lower crash rates than men, but they are more likely to be killed in comparable crashes. This is because vehicles have been designed for men. The anthropomorphic dummies used in safety tests were based on male bodies, with implications for torso size and strength. Cars are not designed for women, although they could be, with the aims of reducing anxiety and increasing physical safety. Women respond to traffic safety messages differently and are less comfortable in vehicles and more often need vehicle adjustments. The significance of toppling this myth is that if vehicles and roadways continue to be designed for only a portion of the driving population, that design will not be improving the mobility and safety of all.
A third myth is that older people live in or will move back to central cities—also is false. Currently, 75 percent of older people live in low-density or rural areas, and the trend is increasing. When older people move, they tend to move outward, to lower density suburbs. Retirement communities are being built on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, in locations without ready access to public transit.
A fourth myth is that older drivers are dangerous and have more crashes and that older women drivers are even worse. None of this reflects reality. Per capita, until about age 80 or 85, older people have fewer accidents. And indeed, older drivers are never worse than teenagers. Older people do, however, have higher fatality rates in crashes due to their overall greater fragility. Older people are more likely to die in crashes of comparable severity than younger people, and older women are much more likely to die in crashes of comparable severity than men.
All of these myths need to be dispelled so that sound policies are based on reality. When it comes to transportation practices and the safety of older men and women, customary assumptions are often false. Design-