Transitioning from Passenger to Driver: Changes in Stress, Driving Habits and Mobility among Widowed Drivers

This study explores the impact of stress and life transitions on mobility. Specifically, the focus is on the impact of widowhood on women's driving habits and mobility. On average, women live longer than men, and thus married women at some point are thus likely to face the possibility of becoming widows. The transition can be difficult for any number of reasons - the loss of a loved one and companion, the financial implications of the loss, its impact on health, and so forth. Often the impact of the stress and life change on mobility patterns and transportation is ignored. For many of these women, however, their spouses will have been the primary drivers in the household, and transportation is essential to maintaining social ties and to managing the necessities of life. The loss of a spouse therefore has the potential to affect women's travel patterns, mobility and behaviors in ways that are less likely to be the same for men. This project will focus more directly on women who have had greater difficulty in transitioning to becoming the primary driver for themselves and their household. They are more likely to depend on others to provide them with rides. The questions in this study include how their mobility has changed as time passes; the role of social commitments, social ties, and work on widow women's travel patterns, as well as the impact of reduced mobility on each of these; and the relationship between stress and confidence and driving behaviors. The implications of this work may result in changes in transportation practice to improve the mobility of people in similar situations, or may help newly widowed women address or cope with difficulties they may face around transportation and mobility. This study explores the impact of stress and life transitions on mobility. Specifically, we focus on the impact of widowhood on women's driving habits and mobility. On average, women live longer than men, and thus married women at some point are thus likely to face the possibility of becoming widows. The project fits squarely into the New England University Transportation Center's theme of disruptive demographics. While women among the current older generation have longer lifespans than men, this trend will be amplified by the improvements in health and education that have led to a growing population of older adults. There will be more widows, more divorced women, and more never married women among the future generations of older adults. For those who do have family members, they are less likely to live within an easy distance and less likely to be able to provide for all of their transportation needs. The next generation of older women will be more likely to have to depend on themselves at some point to provide for their transportation needs than any previous generation of older women, at a time when mobility and access to driving are more important than ever for meeting the daily and social needs of everyday life. The transition for women to widowhood can be difficult for any number of reasons - the loss of a loved one and companion, the financial implications of the loss, its impact on health, and so forth. Often the impacts of the stress and life change on mobility patterns and transportation are ignored. For many of these women, however, their spouses will have been the primary drivers in the household, and transportation is essential to maintaining social ties and to managing the necessities of life. The loss of a spouse therefore has the potential to affect women's travel patterns, driving habits and behaviors in ways that are less likely to be the same for men. This project will focus more directly on women who have had greater difficulty in transitioning to becoming the primary driver for themselves and their household. They are more likely to depend on others to provide them with rides. The questions in this study include how women's mobility has changed as time passes; the role of social commitments, social ties, and work on widow women's travel patterns, as well as the impact of reduced mobility on each of these; and the relationship between stress and confidence and driving behaviors. With a mix of qualitative focus group data and analysis of existing secondary survey data, the project promises to create a rich description of the impact of this stressful life event on transportation habits and mobility, and to generate hypotheses about how the current and future generations of older adults will be affected by the experiences of their own stressful life events.

    Language

    • English

    Project

    • Status: Completed
    • Funding: $160000.00
    • Contract Numbers:

      DTRS99-G-0001

    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Research and Innovative Technology Administration

      Department of Transportation
      1200 New Jersey Avneue, SE
      Washington, DC  United States  20590
    • Performing Organizations:

      New England University Transportation Center

      Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 40-279
      Cambridge, MA  United States  01239
    • Principal Investigators:

      DAmbrosio, Lisa

    • Start Date: 20060901
    • Expected Completion Date: 0
    • Actual Completion Date: 20070831
    • Source Data: RiP Project 19615

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01466326
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: New England University Transportation Center
    • Contract Numbers: DTRS99-G-0001
    • Files: UTC, RiP, USDOT
    • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 3:14PM