As people age, their driving abilities usually change. Although aging does not necessarily indicate a need to stop driving, it does mean that individuals must be objective enough to notice eventual warning signs that age may be interfering with judgment and driving safety. By practicing safe driving techniques and reducing some common risks, seniors can continue driving for many years. Eventually, it may be time to give up the keys. However, giving up driving does not mean independence is lost. There are plenty of alternatives and resources for keeping seniors mobile. Consider the following tips.
1. Know how driving abilities and aging are related. Not every person ages the same, so there is no clear definition for this matter. However, statistics show that older adults are more likely to get traffic tickets or get into accidents. The rates for fatal crashes rise sharply after people reach the age of 70. As some people near this age mark, they may experience hearing loss, impaired vision or slowed reflexes. Each of these issues can contribute to a deadly crash on the road. Strokes or other sudden changes may be the cause of seniors’ accidents, or the cause may be a chronic condition that worsens over time. However, it is important to think realistically about these issues when deciding whether to keep driving. Many people mistakenly believe that they can adapt their driving skills with chronic conditions.
2. Know how to identify unsafe driving. At some point, everyone experiences a close call while driving. If several close calls are noted in a short amount of time, it is time to stop and analyze the situation. Unsafe practices may develop gradually or come on suddenly. One of the most important issues to consider is personal health. Any change in health demands a heightened awareness while driving. Many medications can affect reflexes and senses. Make sure to heed the warning labels on medication bottles. Another factor to consider is eyesight. This is the most important sense for safe driving. Blurred vision, double vision, light sensitivity and trouble seeing at night are all serious issues to evaluate. It may be best to speak with an eye care professional for the best analysis. Hearing is also important. Not hearing a honking horn, emergency siren or train whistle could create a recipe for danger. It is also important to recognize problems turning or problems with reflexes. Memory issues must be considered. Everyone experiences a lapse here and there, but consistent memory problems require prompt medical attention.
3. Practice safety on the road. To stay safe on the road, it is imperative to stay healthy. Do not neglect regular checkups with a personal physician. If there are any concerns or issues related to driving, be sure to discuss them with the doctor. Keeping these issues hidden because they may indicate a need to stop driving may keep a senior on the road longer. However, masking important problems and denying them could cost an entire family their lives if they are the other parties involved in an accident. To stay on top of these issues, have hearing evaluated every year. Annual eye exams are important. Eat a balanced diet, exercise as much as possible and try to get plenty of sleep. Many accidents are caused because of tired drivers in all age groups, so be sure to discuss any sleep problems with a physician. Having the right car is also important. Choose one that is comfortable and has all of the necessary safety features.
4. Know the alternatives. If seniors decide to stop driving, there are alternatives for mobility. Most public bus systems offer discounted rates for seniors. In most big cities, the routes are frequent and expansive. There are also community transportation programs. Contact the local HHS department for current details. Check with a local senior citizens’ club for additional information about group outings, individual transportation and other benefits.
If several family members or friends continually voice concerns about driving, be sure to listen to them. Although this may be the last thing seniors want to hear from their kids or friends, it is important to remember that they care.