The Pew Research Center reminds us that 8,000 boomers are turning 65 every day for the next 16 years. By 2030, they’ll represent almost one in five drivers. Safe driving is an important issue for everyone – especially seniors! Although older drivers are at a higher risk of becoming involved in an automobile accident than younger drivers, not everyone is an “accident waiting to happen” – and in fact many seniors are better drivers than today’s young folks.
The United States has unfortunately created a culture where in most situations we are forced to drive, and we embrace it. We use our cars to get our basic necessities, participate in social events and “the automobile” is often considered to be the cornerstone of American independence. Most people would drive from their bed to the fridge if they could!!! I recently wrote a blog about livable communities that are specifically developed to reduce the amount of driving as we age by making public transportation, social activities, parks and recreation more convenient – hopefully this trend is on the rise as the graying of America becomes more imminent.
We all age at different rates and with different needs. This is important to keep in mind because periodically we must check for those symptoms and outside causes that may impact our loved one’s ability to drive safely. Seniors are more likely to receive traffic citations when it comes to small things such as failing to yield, turning improperly and running stop signs. These types of incidents may be early signs of decreased driving ability. Research tells us that automotive collisions become significantly more deadly after a driver has reached the age of 70. The good thing is that in today’s world there’s plenty of information to help better educate caregivers and their aging loved one’s so that we can hopefully avoid this problem.
If you feel you need to have a conversation about safe driving with an aging loved one it’s important to be delicate in your approach. The AAA online senior drivers quiz discusses common risk factors and instructs readers as to how to avoid potentially dangerous driving habits or behaviors – this is a good place to start. Here are some warning signs AARP considers to be the most important indicators as to when someone should begin to limit driving or stop driving all together….
• Feeling uncomfortable and nervous or fearful while driving
• Dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs etc.
• Difficulty staying in the lane of travel
• Getting lost
• Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs and pavement markings
• Slower response rates to unexpected situations
• Medical conditions/medications that may be affecting the ability to handle the car safely
• Frequent “close calls” (i.e. almost crashing)
• Trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps
• Other drivers honking at you and instances when you are angry at other drivers
• Friends or relatives not wanting to drive with you
• Difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight ahead
• Being easily distracted or having a hard time concentrating while driving
• Difficulty turning around to check over your shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
• Frequent traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers
If some of these signs seem to be a concern for you or an aging loved one you might want to consider consulting a doctor or a professional in the field. Stay safe. Care for your safety and others.