Important Information for Aging Drivers
As we begin to age, many things begin to change, including our abilities behind the wheel. Although these changes are inevitable, there are some safe driving practices that can be employed to help us continue to drive safely even in the older years of our lives. It is important, however, to pay attention to warning signs that will appear when age begins to affect the way we drive – some individuals may be able to adjust their driving habits while others may want to reduce the amount of time they spend behind the wheel in order to stay safe. Here are some driving safety tips to keep in mind as we age.
Have an Understanding of How Age Can Affect Driving Skills
Just as we are all unique individuals in many aspects of life, everyone also ages differently – there is no benchmark for when a person’s age begins to take a toll on a their ability to drive and when they should stop driving. Surprisingly, older individuals are much more likely to receive traffic tickets and be involved in car accidents than younger drivers. As many of us know, an increase in age comes with a number of different changes to our health, including decreased vision, slowed motor skills, and a decrease in our ability to hear clearly. All of these factors contribute to an older person’s driving ability and can be the cause for the increase in citations and accidents among the older community.
Increased age is also associated with a reduction in coordination, flexibility, and strength, which can also inhibit how someone drives. Some examples of this are leg pain that makes it difficult to operate pedals, lesser arm strength can make it hard to control the wheel, stiffness or pain in the neck can prohibit a driver from checking blind spots when turning or changing lanes, and decreased reaction times can make it difficult to react to sudden changes on the road. Even though many of us take pride in a safe driving record, it is important to note that changes in our age and our health can have a profound effect on our ability to drive safely, and it is important to consider these changes before getting behind the wheel.
Be Mindful of Warning Signs of Unsafe Driving
Just as knowing how age affects our ability to drive is important, so is noticing the warning signs of when it may be unsafe for you to drive. Sometimes these signs appear gradually over time or a recent, abrupt health change may make these warning signs worse and being behind the wheel unsafe. Even though some warning signs may seem minor, it is important to know that even these minor difficulties can add up and cause a larger safety problem for yourself as the driver, your passengers in the vehicle and other drivers on the road around you. In some cases, health problems are the cause for unsafe driving warning signs while other signs are simply caused by the changes we undertake as we begin to age.
Health problems alone are not a reason for someone to stop driving, but it is important to take overall health and abilities into consideration when deciding whether to continue to drive. With increased awareness, vigilance, and willingness to correct problems, it is possible for older individuals to continue to drive into the older years of their lives. Some health problems that you should be aware of include conflicts with medications and how medication affects your ability to function, problems with range of motion or reflexes that can prohibit you from making quick adjustments, vision problems that can make it hard to see other vehicles or road signs, and hearing issues that can keep you from hearing warning signs like emergency sirens, other car horns, and even the sounds of acceleration around the car.
Aside from health concerns, there are some other warning signs that you should take note of, either for yourself or for a loved one. First, keep an eye out for red flags that include warnings or increased citations as well as frequent “close calls” including almost accidents, scraps along curbs or rails, and incidents with mailboxes or garage doors. Although these may seem minor, it is important to remember that they could be an indication of a larger safety issue. Additionally, pay attention to how you or your loved one handles the basics of driving – do they brake or accelerate for no reason? Make sudden lane changes or drift unknowingly from one lane to the next? These could also be signs of unsafe driving.