The moment you have the keys to your first car there is a sense of freedom and independence.
Having your own vehicle means going where you want, whenever you want. The thought of hanging up the car keys permanently is not a potential reality many Seniors wish to take seriously. Often a serious scare or accident occurs to motivate leaving the driving to others.
Age May Affect Your Driving
No one believes they are too old to drive. Over 33 million drivers are over the age of 65. In 2009 58% of motor vehicle deaths involving drivers 65 and older were caused by the older driver.
Reflexes and the ability to make decisions within a fraction of a second are not as acute in Seniors. It is more difficult to focus on the environment when attention spans are not as sharp as in younger years.
Sight and Sound Deficits
Vision and hearing traditionally decline with age. Traffic situations arise within seconds and it is difficult to react quickly if there is a vision or hearing loss.
Peripheral vision impairment may cause a driver to pull out unexpectedly or miss important road signs. Hearing loss prevents recognizing warning sounds when pulling into the wrong lane or needing to move to the side of the road as an emergency vehicle approaches.
Schedule regular vision and hearing checks to help stay ahead of problems. Fortunately, many vision and hearing deficits are easily corrected.
Medical Conditions Do Pose Problems
A wide variety of medical conditions make driving unsafe for Seniors. Cognitive disorders, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and heart conditions are only a few. Those with a history of strokes often have residual impairments making driving hazardous. Nervous system disorders such as Parkinson’s negatively impact a person’s ability to function well behind the wheel. Medical devices, such as automatic defibrillators and pacemakers, may also be problematic.
Medications could reduce a person’s ability to drive. Any drug with a side effect of dizziness or sleepiness will have a warning to not drive. When taking a new medication, ask if it will affect your driving capability.
Increasing the Safety Factor for Senior Drivers
Aging does not require one to stop driving but does have the potential to be unsafe behind the wheel. Even if vision and hearing are suitable for driving and there are no other health issues impairing the ability to drive, precautions should be taken to be a safe driver.
Occupational therapists and rehabilitation specialists administer safety evaluation tests to evaluate your competency as a driver. If there are areas needing improvement, for example., being too weak to brake properly, the therapist will provide rehabilitation to strengthen muscles.
Self-assessment tools are available. One is the AAA Roadwise Review. In this test functional abilities such as head and neck flexibility, high and low contrast visual acuity, working memory, mobility and leg strength are measured. AARP’s Driver Safety Program is an additional refresher course helping Senior drivers and also the most extensive course available for those concerned about driving in their later years.
Transitioning as a Senior into a new lifestyle encompasses much and involves a host of changes. Bridge to Better Living helps with transitions by providing resources and guidance to lessen stress and enable good decisions. Contact us for more information about our no-cost, one-on-one client service now. We’ll even do the driving!