You know the saying, “I’m not getting any younger”? It’s true for the general population– by the year 2020, an estimated one in five drivers will be 65 years or older.
With old age comes changes that can greatly impact the ability to drive. Unfortunately it’s borne out by the fact that older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes than any other age group except teenagers. Knowing the warning signs of driving impairments, adjusting to physical and mental changes, and developing transportation alternatives are critical to the safety of older drivers, their passengers and others on the road.
The ability to drive is largely connected to the ability to see. As they age, drivers should be cognizant of their ability to see clearly, particularly at night, the discernment of contrasts, peripheral vision, the ability to adjust to changing conditions and depth perception, all of which impact safe driving.
Avoid driving in poor visibility conditions and use the day/night option on your rear view mirror. To avoid on-coming headlights, focus your eyes to the right side of the lane and speak to your doctor about yellow, night-driving glasses. Have wide angle rear and side view mirrors installed to increase your view and to reduce blind spots.
Older drivers commonly experience hearing difficulties that can result in the inability to hear important sounds, like car horns, sirens and other emergency signals.
Hearing should be checked regularly. If a hearing aid is needed, be sure to ask about its effect on separating out background noise.
Advancing age is often accompanied by a reduction in strength, which can impact the ability to brake or steer in an emergency. Stiffness in joints or arthritis, can also limit a drivers’ ability to turn his or her head sufficiently or to steer properly.
Regular exercise will enhance flexibility, strength and stamina. Keeping limber will expand the overall range of movement.
Often a person’s reaction time slows with age, which increases the possibility of accidents, or reacting to road hazards.
Keep a longer distance between you and the car ahead to compensate for slowing reflexes. If possible, engage in sports or other physical activities that challenge your ability to respond quickly.
Older drivers often take over-the-counter and prescription drugs for a variety of ailments that can impair driving ability.
The effect of all medications taken should be addressed by a doctor.
Aging often results in a decrease in the ability to multi-task. Distractions on the road and in the car, including conversations with passengers and listening to the radio, can present serious challenges to older drivers.
Limit the use of the radio. Have passengers handle directions and the map navigation.
What do you think of these tips? Have any to add? Let us know in the comments!