As we get older our driving abilities naturally change, but this does not automatically mean that we need to stop driving. Since everyone ages differently there is not arbitrary cut off age when a person should stop driving. However, it is important to pay attention to signs that aging is interfering with our driving ability and safety. By making appropriate adjustments, many of seniors can continue to drive safely.
There does come a time when certain seniors may need to give up the keys for the betterment of their safety and the safety of others on the road. Older adults are more likely to receive traffic violations and get into accidents than younger adults. The fatal crash rate rises drastically after a driver has reached 70 years of age. As we age decreased vision, impaired hearing, and slowed motor reflexes can greatly affect driving abilities. You may have driving your entire life with a safe driving record, but it is very important that you realize that your driving ability can change as you age.
It is important to know the warning signs of unsafe driving. Sometimes these signs can happen gradually or can be brought on by a recent change in health. Sometimes the warning signs individually do not seem that bad, but together they can add up to a substantial risk. Here are some of the warning signs to watch for:
Medications: Seniors tend to take more medications than younger adults. Certain medications or combinations of medications can greatly affect your reflexes and senses. Make sure to check the labels on your medications and check with your physician to make sure there are no warnings against driving.
Eyesight: Some eye conditions can interfere with your ability to focus, reduce peripheral vision, cause extra light sensitivity, decrease night vision, or increase blurred vision. Make sure you can easily see traffic lights and street signs. Also ensure that you can react appropriately to drivers coming from behind or to the side.
Hearing: Decreased hearing can cause you to miss out on important sounds that can affect driving. Make sure that you are able to hear emergency sirens, someone accelerating next to you, and horns honking.
Reflexes/Range of Motion: It is very important when driving that you can react quickly enough to brake suddenly or rapidly look behind you. If you have confused the gas and brake pedals you might want to consider this as a sign that you might need to look for alternative means of transportation. Make sure it is comfortable for you to look over your shoulder and that you can react quickly enough to avoid a collision.
Memory: If you have problems with consistently missing exits or tend to get lost frequently you might have a memory problem that should be evaluated by a doctor. Read up on tips to help prevent memory loss to find ways to keep you on the road longer.
Driving Mechanics: Are you making sudden lane changes, drifting into other lanes, or failing to use your turn signal? Do you forget to turn off your blinker? Do you brake or accelerate suddenly without reason? If you have noticed any of these things you should definitely evaluate your driving ability.
Close Calls: If you have frequent close calls with crashes, dents or scrapes on your car, or bump into mailboxes, garage doors, and curbs you should consider giving up your keys. These minor incidents could easily turn into a major accident if that close call becomes too close.
Traffic Citations: If you have been stopped more frequently by law enforcement officers or have had an increased number of traffic tickets or warnings you need to carefully consider if your driving abilities are still up to par.
Aging does not automatically mean a total loss of driving ability. However, if you are seeing many of these warning signs it might be time to consider turning in your keys. However, just because you have to give up driving does not mean that you have to give up your independence as alternative methods of transportation can offer many other benefits.