As people age, there are often health related issues that can get in the way and affect driving. Declining health issues do not mean you should give up driving right away, but it’s best to be aware of the severity of each risk. This will help to maintain safety and make minor adjustments as you go. There are many things people can do including modifying when and where to drive to optimize safety on the road. Here are a few health concerns that may directly affect your driving more than others.
Drivers of any age can experience anxiety, a feeling of fear, worry, apprehension, or dread in situations that are routine to others. Cases can range from mild to severe, with it being common among older adults and affecting 10-20 percent of the population. Anxiety can impair quick decision-making and hinder the ability to focus and think clearly, which can result in poor judgement and affect road safety. Anxious drivers may make sudden lane changes, drift into other lanes, or brake suddenly. Severe anxiety should be evaluated by a health professional.
By 75, most individuals will develop cataracts in one or both eyes. Cataracts can make vision cloudy, blurry, or muted in color. Drivers with cataracts may experience more of a glare from headlights and sometimes double vision. Most people can drive with cataracts and can receive corrective surgery to fix their condition as it progresses.
Limited Range of Motion
Range of motion (ROM) describes how much joints and muscles can move. ROM is affected by age and can lessen mobility as individuals grow older. This can occur in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, back, legs, and feet. A good range of motion is necessary for maintaining a safe, comfortable driving position. This can affect a driver’s ability to check blind spots, merge into traffic, and see adequately over the dashboard. Drivers with limited ROM can have special mirrors installed and learn optimal positioning for driving.
Diabetes is a chronic condition associated with abnormal levels of glucose in the blood. There’s type I and type II diabetes, and the condition can lead to damage in the blood vessels, heart, eyes, feet, kidneys, and peripheral nerves. Low blood sugar can cause delayed reactions, irritability, visual disturbances, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Increased irritability can lead to poor decision making, and blurred vision can make traffic signs harder to read. Neuropathy or numbness can also result in accelerating or braking harder than intended. Diabetics are encouraged to closely monitor glucose levels and consult with their health care team on what’s safest in terms of driving.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) distorts and eventually destroys sharp central vision. Ten percent of people between 65 and 74 have AMD, and 30 percent of people over 75 develop it. AMD can progress through several stages from small areas of central vision loss to larger areas of loss and distortion. Drivers with AMD may have trouble seeing objects directly in front of the eye and can put themselves and other drivers at risk. If diagnosed with AMD, monitor your vision daily and test central vision with an Amsler Grid.
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