Driving provides mobility and independence to older adults. However, driving requires dividing your attention between multiple activities and reacting quickly to situations that often arise without warning. As people age, we experience declines in vision, physical functioning and reflexes, and cognitive functioning. These changes negatively impact older adults’ driving abilities. These issues are compounded by age-related fragility, which makes seniors more likely to be injured or killed in a crash. According to the CDC, car crashes kill 20 and injure 540 seniors every day.
Seniors can compensate for many of these changes to remain safely on the road for as long as possible. The following tips were developed by the USAA Educational Foundation, AARP, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Vision: Declining vision makes it difficult to read street signs as well as line lines, curbs, pedestrians, and other vehicles. Seniors with diminished vision should wear their glasses and ensure they are the current prescription. Cleaning the windshield, mirrors and headlights also helps. As does raising the seat so that you can see the road for ten feet in front of your car – this reduces the glare experienced from opposing headlights. Seniors with declining vision should also avoid driving at dusk, dawn, and night when there is less light reaching the eye.
Reflexes: Declining reflexes make it difficult to react to sudden changes and avoid unexpected obstacles quickly. They also cause difficulties in merging with traffic. Seniors can cope with declining reflexes by planning their route so as to stick with familiar roads and avoid rush hour. They can also scan far down the road to anticipate future problems and plan their actions.
The CDC also suggests that seniors avoid driving during poor weather and wear their seat belts. Certain medications, or combinations thereof, can increase the risk of a car crash. Reviewing medications with your doctor and/or pharmacist can reduce side effects and interactions. Similarly, minimizing distractions, such as the radio and cell phones, helps keep attention on the road and in turn, reduces the risk of accidents.
Taking these steps can help adults of all ages stay safe on the road.
This content is part of a partnership between Source of the Spring and Seniors Helping Seniors® to promote wellness and healthy aging throughout the local community. Seniors Helping Seniors® provides services to support seniors so that they can maintain their independence and remain in their homes. For more information visit shsbethesda.com. Photo: © Daxiao Productions – stock.adobe.com