Driving a vehicle can help older adults keep their independence. But if an older individual is experiencing loss of vision or hearing or if they are suffering a decline in cognition, driving may be a hindrance or worse dangerous.
Seniors, age 65 and older, are among the safest drivers on the road according to AAA, because they wear their seat belts, observe speed limits and don’t drink and drive. However, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven, AAA reports.
The goal of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, the first week in December, is to ensure that senior drivers remain active in their community while staying safe on the road.
There are more than 41 million licensed drivers age 65 and older on the roads which is up from 26 million 20 years ago, according to the National Institute on Aging. Because changes in an aging person’s health, like hearing or vision problems, may affect someone’s driving, the federal agency recommends observing a loved one’s driving skills to see if they are still deemed a safe driver.
If you’re not able to observe a loved one’s driving skills, things the NIA suggest looking out for include:
- Multiple vehicle crashes, “near misses,” and/or new dents in the vehicle
- Two or more traffic violations within the last two years; increases in car insurance premiums due to driving issues
- Comments from neighbors and friends about their driving
- Complaints about the speed, sudden lane changes or actions of other drivers
- Health issues that might affect their driving ability including vision, hearing and mobility
If you are an older driver, do you find yourself questioning your own driving abilities? While there is no set age to give up driving, the NIH recommends considering asking yourself these questions:
- Do other drivers often honk at me?
- Have I had some accidents, even minor ones?
- Do I get lost, even on familiar roads?
- Do cars or pedestrians seem to appear out of nowhere?
- Do I get distracted while driving?
- Do I have trouble staying in my lane?
- Do I have trouble moving my foot between the gas and the brake pedals?
- Has a police officer pulled me over because of my driving?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, the NIH recommends reassessing your driving habits. If you do decide to give up driving, your Area Agency on Aging can help you find transportation. You can also give them a call at 1-800-677-1116.
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