Driving and Aging: Make an Informed Choice
If you or a loved one is a senior driver, it makes sense to understand the relationship between driving and aging. Most seniors are retired and drive for pleasure only. They also generally drive well due to years of experience. At the same time, the natural aging process comes with risk factors such as:
• Diminished eyesight and/or hearing
• Stiff joints and muscles
• Slower reflexes and reaction times
Medications may also negatively impact the ability to drive. NIH Senior Health states, “Driving is a complicated task. It requires people to see and hear clearly; pay close attention to other cars, traffic signs and signals, and pedestrians; and react quickly to events. Drivers must be able to accurately judge distances and speeds and monitor movement on both sides as well in front of them.”
People are reluctant to give up driving. It offers both transportation and independence. There is no “right” age to stop driving. Common mistakes older drivers make include:
• Driving too slowly
• Failing to come to a complete stop
• Failing to stay in lane
• Misjudging distance
The risk of accidents increases after the age of 75. The most common accidents involve an older driver merging and colliding with a car in his or her blind spot; sideswiping a vehicle and at intersections. There are things you can do to improve your safety.
• Take a driver refresher course
• Avoid driving at night or in bad weather
Surrendering the keys doesn’t have to be a loss. Many communities offer free or low-cost transportation services for seniors. In the Charleston area:
• ITNCharlestonTrident is a community-based non-profit service that provides: arm-through-arm, door-through-door service, affordable rates $1.50 per mile and no tipping. No money is exchanged in the vehicle, rather charged to a pre-paid account.
• Lowcountry Companions offers a broad range of service to help seniors retain their independence including transportation to doctors.
• Ride it Out provides rides for errands, to visit family and friends, grocery shopping and more.
If you are a senior, take time to do an honest self-assessment of your driving ability or ask someone to help you make that decision. If you need to have this conversation with parent or loved one focus on your concern for their safety and not their age.
Take time to consider these issues before an accident happens.