Safety and Older Drivers

Driving abilities can change as we get older. Here are some risk factors and safe driving practices which can allow us to continue driving safely long into our senior years.

As we age, decreased vision, impaired hearing, or slow motor reflexes may be problematic. Chronic conditions may worsen slowly over time. Reduced strength, loss of coordination, and decreased flexibility can have an impact on driving ability. Changes can and will happen, and it is important to listen to others if they notice a change.

Ensure your vision, hearing, and overall general health is checked regularly. Increase safety by leaving adequate space for the car in front of you, being extra cautious at intersections, and allowing enough braking distance. Drive only during daylight hours if you have trouble seeing at night. Avoid highways if fast-moving traffic makes you uneasy. Check weather forecasts in advance so as to avoid driving in bad weather.

If others are saying that your driving skills are not up to par, consider taking a drivers' ed refresher course. Also, your doctor can provide an opinion about your ability to drive. If you need a more in-depth evaluation of your skills, contact an occupational therapist or certified driver rehabilitation specialist. They can recommend car modifications that can  enable you to drive as long as possible.

Some signs to pay attention to include extra sensitivity to light, trouble seeing in the dark, blurred vision, not hearing emergency sirens or the honking of a horn, confusing the gas and brake pedals, feeling anxious or angry, missing exits that you know and use often, or getting lost.

Also look out for drifting into other lanes, forgetting to turn the turn signal off, frequent "close calls", finding dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors where you park the car, and traffic tickets.

Keep yourself and others safe. Pay attention to warning signs and take the appropriate steps.