Older driving safety: Warning signs and how to know when to stop driving
As we age, it’s normal for our driving abilities to change. By reducing risk factors and incorporating safe driving practices, many of us can continue driving safely long into our senior years.
According to the American Automobile Association, AAA, as a group, senior drivers are at a higher risk of having a serious collision per mile driven than any other age group except for those under age 25.
How can older driver deaths and injuries be prevented? Getting your eyes checked every year. Make sure that corrective lenses are current. Some eye conditions or medications can interfere with your ability to focus your peripheral vision, or cause you to experience extra sensitivity to light, trouble seeing in the dark, or blurred vision. Keep the windshield, mirrors, and headlights clean, and turn brightness up on the instrument panel on your dashboard.
Having your hearing checked annually. If your hearing is decreasing, you may not realize you’re missing out on important cues to drive safely. Can you hear emergency sirens, or if someone is accelerating next to you, or the honking of a horn?
Talk with your doctor about the effects that ailments or medications may have on your driving ability. Certain medications or combinations of medications can affect senses and reflexes. Always check the label on medications and double check with your healthcare team if you are taking several medications or notice a difference after starting a new medication.
Getting enough sleep is essential to driving well. If there are problems, try to improve nighttime sleep conditions and talk with your doctor about the effect of any sleep medications on driving.
If a driving situation makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many older drivers voluntarily begin to make changes in their driving practices.
For instance, you may decide to drive only during daylight hours if you have trouble seeing well in reduced light. If fast-moving traffic bothers you, consider staying off freeways, highways, and find street routes instead. You may also decide to avoid driving in bad weather. If you are going to a place that is unfamiliar to you, it is a good idea to plan your route before you leave so that you feel more confident and avoid getting lost.
If relatives, friends, or others begin to talk to you about your driving, it may be time to take a hard, honest look at your driving ability. You might choose to brush up on your driving through a refresher course.
Safety courses are offered in many communities and online. An occupational therapist or certified driver rehabilitation specialist can provide a comprehensive evaluation of the skills needed to drive and recommend car modifications or tools to keep someone driving as long as possible. It can also help diffuse accusations from family by providing a neutral third party perspective.
This article is made possible with Older Americans Act dollars from the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging. Call the Senior LinkAge line at 800-333-2433 to speak with an information specialist, or check out our website at MinnesotaHelp.info. The site includes more than 12,000 agencies and 44,000 services across the state of Minnesota.