Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not supposed to be behind the wheel; however, checking your driving skills on a regular basis is a vital part of maintaining senior safety, as almost everyone has a point where reflexes slow down and vision deteriorates, making driving no longer safe for you and those on the road.
Driving is a vital thing for many of us to keep our freedom as we mature. Through-risk factors and the adoption of healthy driving habits, you will be able to continue driving comfortably well into your senior years. Even though you notice that you have to popularize your driving or give up the keys, it doesn’t mean that your freedom is going to stop.
Every age is different, but there is no predetermined limit when someone stops driving. However, older people are more likely than younger drivers to earn tickets and get into accidents. What’s the explanation for this increase? Factors such as reduced vision, impaired hearing, slower motor reflexes and deteriorating health conditions may become a concern as we age.
How Does Age Affect Driving?
It is important to remember that growing older does not automatically turn people into bad drivers. Many of us are still healthy, careful drivers as we age. But as we age, there are changes that can have an impact on driving skills.
One of the most dramatic physical changes associated with age is vision loss. Receiving light is what helps us to see, and as we age, our eyes are less sensitive to light. It also takes longer to refocus from one item to the next, so that the “simple” task of checking the speed meter and then turning our attention back to the car ahead of us becomes much less easy. It may be difficult for an older person to distinguish red lights from yellow lights or braking lights from running lights. Many elderly people often have vision problems, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. All of this makes it harder to read traffic signals, respond quickly to busy road conditions, and calculate distance and speed precisely.
Hearing is another function that affects the aging process. Hearing is a vital aspect of healthy driving — it helps us respond better to ambulances and police sirens, and to the horns of people trying to alert us to danger or error.
Motor skills are also declining with age. Muscles weaken, reflexes slow, and endurance decrease. All of this makes it easier to do things like turning your head to make sure that changing lanes is safe, and turning the steering wheel quickly to prevent a collision. Arthritis is also popular among senior citizens, making it much more difficult to move and navigate quickly and smoothly.
Although health problems can have an impact on driving at any age, they happen more often as we get older. For example, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes can make driving harder. People with depression may be distracted while driving. Symptoms of a stroke, or even lack of sleep, may also cause problems with driving.
Smart Tips Be a Safe Driver
- Assess your well-being. Create a checklist for yourself, go down the list, one at a time.
- Are you going to have any stiffness or pain? It could impair the ability to turn the wheel or look in the mirrors.
- Feeling stressed out? Feeling stressed may cause other health problems, such as heart disease, that may be present in aging drivers. Again, it’s best to talk to your doctor about the best health choices you have as you age.
- Have you vision checked and take hearing test – Get your vision checked regularly, depending on your age, and go no longer than two years without a check-up. With relatively quick outpatient surgery, eye doctors can diagnose and correct a number of vision problems, such as cataracts.
Surgery in an elderly person is not always the solution to a vision problem. Corrective lenses can also improve the problem. Your loved one may only need a new prescription for eyeglasses or contact every year. Finally, anti-reflective lenses can help to reduce the glare when driving and make it a little easier to see. Good vision can make it much easier for older adults to drive healthy. The response times will slow down as you age. This is due, in part, to a loss of vision and hearing. That’s why both should be checked on a daily basis. It’s best for seniors to have their hearing tested every three years, at least once. Holding the interior of the car as quiet as possible can often help to reduce disturbances.
- Understand and accept the probability of limitations – You can’t do whatever you used to do when you were younger, and that’s all right. If you have problems with your current car, consider exchanging it for a car that is more suited to your current needs. For example, if you find jarring going over potholes or speed bumps, look for a smoother suspension vehicle to make it a little easier for you.
- Find the right car and any help you need to drive safely – If necessary, the equipment may be recommended by an occupational therapist or a licensed driving rehabilitation specialist to make it easier to drive your car or control the pedals. Otherwise, choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering and power braking. Hold the vehicle in good working order, with scheduled daily maintenance. Make sure the windows and headlamps are clear.
- Check your medication for side effects – If you are using a prescription medicine to treat a health problem, please make sure to read the label and look for the side effects of the medicine. Don’t drive (a vehicle certainly counts as heavy machinery!) if the bottle of drugs specifies that you’re not running heavy machinery. If the drug does not contain any warnings, but you still feel that your cognitive or physical abilities are impaired, contact your doctor – they may advise you to consider a different means of transport.