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Senior Driving: Facing The Issue

by AAA T.L.C., on Oct 19, 2020 10:42:22 AM

right and wrong decisions for in-home care for your loved ones

It is old news now that, thanks to improvements in medical care, boomers are living longer than members of the previous generation. Yet, statistics show that traffic accidents increase after age 65, and traffic fatalities, after age 75. Unfortunately, aging can affect driving in a number of ways:

  • Pain/stiffness in the neck, arms, legs, joints due to arthritis
  • Decreased vision from cataracts, macular degeneration, or glaucoma
  • Hearing impairment
  • Slower motor reflexes/reaction time
  • Diminished memory

First step: Acknowledgement of the issue

What to do? Older drivers must take responsibility, not only for their own lives, but those of others, including passengers, pedestrians, and fellow drivers. Seniors must take precautions, such as:

  • Regular health check-ups to assess vision, hearing, musculoskeletal, and cognitive function
  • Keeping vehicles in optimal running condition
  • Driving a vehicle well-suited to the driver’s needs (automatic transmission, power steering, lumbar support, etc.)
  • Ensuring that windshields, mirrors, and headlights are clean
  • Avoiding extraneous noise from open windows and radios
  • Pulling over to the side of the road to check GPS or road maps, or to answer cell phones
  • Keeping a safe distance behind the car ahead
  • Making sure prescribed medications cause no drug-drug interactions or side effects that could impair focus, such as drowsiness or dizziness

If you believe that a loved one ought to give up driving, it is time to speak up. This must be done tactfully because driving signifies independence to seniors. Things to address might include observed trouble with driving basics, such as lane changes, braking, accelerating, lane “drift,” failing to use turn signals or leaving them on beyond when they are needed. More obvious examples might include increased “close calls,” citations, or actual accidents.

Other ways to make your case

If it’s necessary, enlist the support of other family members or friends to convince your loved one to leave driving behind. Bring up alternatives to driving, such as public transport, including buses, taxis/Uber/Lift, ride sharing, community shuttles or senior transit. Stress the health benefits of walking to destinations if your loved one is up to it.

Visit seniordriving.aaa.com for resources such as interactive self-assessment quizzes and certified driver rehabilitation specialist listings. Another resource, dmv.ca.gov, catalogues a number of Mature Driver Improvement Programs and also features a Senior Guide for Safe Driving. Again, the mantra in all of this is safety. Do not be shy to repeat it.


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