Age-Related Changes Can Make Driving Unsafe
Statistics show that age can affect driving abilities and impact older driver safety. Some age-related factors that can affect drivers include:
- Cognition: When you drive, you need to integrate several skills at the same time, including attention, memory and visual processing. Both our judgment and speed of processing can become impaired, jeopardizing driving skills.
- Hearing and Vision Loss: Regular hearing and vision check-ups are imperative since safe driving means hearing honking and emergency sirens and seeing the road and other vehicles.
- Medical Conditions: ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, diabetes, head trauma, high and low blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, nervous system disorders, severe arthritis, severe elderly depression, sleep disorders, stroke effects, surgery after effects, thyroid disease and the use of medical devices including automatic defibrillators and pacemakers can make driving unsafe.
- Medications: Certain medications can also reduce driving skills, including antihistamines and medications for depression, diabetes and pain reduction. Always ask your doctor how new medications will affect your driving.
- Motor Function: As people age, their flexibility lessens, joints become stiffer and muscles weaken. Operating the brake and gas pedals, turning your head to view traffic and using the steering wheel can become more difficult.
There are resources that caregivers, parents and senior loved ones can use to ensure older driver safety:
Taking a driving class is a good way to assess your own skills and stay safe on the road. Elderly resources like the AARP Driver Safety Program refresher course is the first and largest course created for adults 50 and older. The class looks at 15 warning signals that might mean a person should limit or stop driving. There are 5 warning signs signal the need for a formal driving assessment:
- Frequent dents or scrapes on the car or on fences, garage doors, curbs, etc.
- More traffic tickets or warnings in the last year or two
- Having crashes, minor accidents, or almost crashing
- Trouble paying attention to or missing signals, road signs, and pavement markings
- Difficulty staying in the lane of travel or changing lanes
After an assessment, a driver often works with an occupational therapist that provides rehabilitation to strengthen skills used in driving. Often the therapist helps fit the car around the person. Devices include parabolic mirrors that yield a panoramic view; knobs or a spinner wheel on the steering wheel; and hand controls for the accelerator and brakes. Often people learn safe driving rules, such as:
- Don’t drive with the radio on or converse with your passengers or use cell phones
- Keep your car in the best shape, with tune-ups, good windshield wipers, aligned headlights, etc
- Always wear seatbelts
- Drive with your headlights on
- Make sure there is enough space between both the cars in front of you and the car behind you
When to Hang Up the Keys
A person has come to the decision on their own, realizing driving is too stressful, and it’s time to retire the car keys. People link the cessation of driving to an end of independence, so it’s important to keep people engaged in activities they enjoy, and to emphasize that retiring from driving is a normal part of aging.
If you or a loved one require to be driven around at a low cost, consider hiring a Senyours companion that can take you to appointments or shopping, learn more at https://www.senyours.io/companion.