There are no studies that indicate a particular age when a driver becomes impaired to the point when they should give up driving. A lot of other factors, besides age, are important considerations. Seniors themselves need to be aware of the clues that tell them they’ve become a risk on the road. If a senior doesn’t recognize their impairments, a relative, friend or doctor needs to step in with a subtle plan to help them make the decision to give up driving.
The population of drivers over 65 is steadily increasing. By 2030 one in five drivers will be over 65. Older drivers are involved in more auto accidents per mile driven than drivers in the middle-age range. Senior drivers are also more medically fragile and are prone to become fatalities during or after an accident.
Most driving impairments fall into three main categories: vision, cognitive and motor, each of which is discussed below:
Glare from headlights at night can be aggravated by vision problems caused by cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Difficulty adjusting to changes in degree of lightness and darkness can distract an older driver. Difficulty focusing on and reading signs can confuse, distract and cause risky driving actions.
Some medical problems like dementia and the side effects of medication can result in risky cognitive decisions while driving. The ability to pay attention, use memory skills, and process visual information can cause serious problems while driving. Drivers who consistently lose their way, feel drowsy, and forget to use turn signals and mirrors are not driving safely. An example would be difficulty judging distance and speed, while attempting a left turn.
Impairment of Motor Function
Aging brings about a decrease in ability to move the body around to meet the demands of driving. The ability to turn the neck quickly and completely when negotiating turns or checking traffic is very important. A driver needs enough strength and endurance to control the wheel and foot petals.
If any of these questions concern you, it’s time to see your doctor or talk to friends and relatives. A brush-up driving course or retaking the driver’s skill test may tell you if it’s wise for you to give up driving. For more information on taking a refresher course, visit: http://seniordriving.aaa.com.
If a relative or friend is worried about a senior’s ability to drive safely, a caring approach seems to work best. This is a very emotional issue for many seniors. Giving up the independence a car gives and becoming dependent on others is “a hard pill to swallow.” A few preliminary steps taken by relatives can hopefully convince a reluctant driver to stop. Try riding along with them and observe the challenges they encounter. Together, set up a plan to use when the time to stop driving becomes apparent. Talk about it and respect the senior driver’s feelings. Discuss alternate plans to driving like public transportation, walking, Share the Ride programs, VEAP, or hiring a transportation company. CarpeVITA Home Care offers Accompaniment Transportation services, which can help families tremendously.
Drivers entering their senior years need to pay attention to their vision, cognitive skills and motor skills to keep tabs on how they are doing. Relatives need to keep a watchful eye on seniors’ driving and have a plan set up early on. Keep the discussion going and talk about any risky driving impairments that are noticed.
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