If you’re caring for an aging loved one, chances are the topic of driving has crossed your mind at least a time or two. Discussing this issue with your loved one can be very difficult but tackling this issue head on and having a plan in place will create peace of mind for all parties. Although they only account for about 9 percent of the population, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show senior drivers account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and17 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. Seniors have the highest rate of automobile accidents in any age group except for teens. Additionally, the number of drivers 65 and older will increase 70 percent over the next 20 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.These startling statistics show that addressing your concerns about driving with your loved one in a timely manner are imperative to ensure safety.
Factors to consider
• Conditions like cataracts and glaucoma can diminish sight and hamper driving ability. An eye doctor can help establish whether your sight is good enough to drive safely.
• Hearing impairments are common in seniors. Not hearing the sirens of an emergency vehicle or a car horn can have devastating consequences.
• Many older drivers no longer have the strength or dexterity to handle a car. They may shrink in height so much they can no longer see over the dashboard. This is especially true for seniors who do little or no physical activity.
• Age is not just a number. Once past the age of 85, vehicular fatality rates jump to nearly four times that of teens.
• Alzheimer’s can impair memory and judgment. Diabetics risk falling into a coma while driving. Even if you have long periods of time when health issues cause no problems, why risk it?
• Medications, especially multiple medications, can greatly impair driving ability. Your doctor should advise you of the dangers your medications present while driving.
Staying safe on the road
Older adults can take several steps to stay safe on the road, including:
• Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
• Asking your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines–both prescription and over-the counter–to reduce side effects and interactions.
• Having eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
• Driving only during daylight and in good weather.
• Finding the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.
• Planning your route before you drive.
• Leaving a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
• Avoiding distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio and eating.
Losing the ability to drive can be very frightening for a senior. After all, getting a driver’s license is an important rite of passage in our culture, signaling a new level of freedom. So, to many losing the ability to drive is losing a piece of freedom and independence. Some points you may want to consider highlighting during your conversation are; the cost savings of using public transportation (oftentimes insurance premiums for seniors increase), the opportunity for quality time by running errands together, and delicately stating what the statistics show about seniors behind the wheel. One of the best ways to get an honest feel for how your loved one does while driving is by sitting in the passenger seat and observing. If you’re concerned at all about your aging loved one the time to have a conversation is now.
Information provided in part by:
How Old is Too Old to Drive? ABC News. Liz Neporent. Aug 30,2012. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/08/30/how-old-is-too-old-to-drive/
Older Adult Drivers: Get the Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. Jan 31, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/older_adult_drivers/adult-drivers_factsheet.html
Boomers, Seniors and Driving Statistics. Wicked Local. nd http://www.wickedlocal.com/littleton/news/lifestyle/seniors/x1837096183/Boomers-seniors-and-driving-statistics