For many, mobility equals independence, especially the ability to drive yourself wherever you’d like to go. While older people face a challenge in mobility, the desire is there to keep driving as long as possible. Getting older doesn’t mean your driving days are over. We are going to highlight some difficulties that elderly people face when driving, some transportation alternatives as well as some ways to modify your vehicle or your daily routine. Check back for our series on Aging and Driving.
Aging affects everyone differently and getting older doesn’t mean your driving skills begin to diminish. While older people are generally the most cautious drivers, wearing seatbelts, etc, statistics show that elderly people are more likely to experience car accidents than any other age group. It is important to be aware of your surroundings while in your vehicle to avoid any dangerous situations. Several key problems can be identified as affecting older adults such as vision, hearing, and fitness. As we age, it becomes increasingly difficult to see well at night. Elderly people are also susceptible to Cataracts and Glaucoma which can cause significant problems with vision. Older drivers are more sensitive to glare and colors become harder to see. Vision conditions can impair driving.
Fitness and reaction time are integral parts of driving. When a person ages, muscles generally become weaker, joints stiffen, and flexibility decreases. These factors, coupled with slowed reflexes can make driving more difficult. Typically, one would not be able to perform some elements of driving such as turning the steering wheel, accelerating, breaking, or looking over your shoulder.
Safety is the most important part of the driving equation, which includes the safety of the driver, their passengers and other motorists. Though driving is an essential part of most people’s daily lives, sometimes it is hard to compensate for problems that can occur when an elderly person is on the road. It is important to be aware of your surroundings and take measures to protect yourself and others when you’re behind the wheel.
Sadly, despite efforts to adjust for aging, there may come a time when retiring your car-keys is in your own best interest. You may want to consider cutting back on your drive time or give up driving all together if you notice that you’re consistently:
- Moving too slowly on the highway
- Failing to come to a full stop at stop signs
- Being inattentive
- Making erratic moves
- Reacting too slowly
- Being honked at by other drivers
- Missing traffic signs or signals or being uncertain of what they mean
- Getting anxious at busy intersections, being unsure what to do or being afraid to drive
- Upsetting your passengers, who may refuse to ride with you
- Forgetting how to drive to familiar places or getting lost more frequently
It is never too late to begin maintaining a safe routine. You may also want to consider making modifications to your vehicle that will allow you to drive more safely. Our mobility specialists can help you choose products that are right for your needs, such as turning automotive seats and
Interested in learning more about how aging affects a person’s ability to drive and ways that you can maintain your independence longer? Subscribe to Mobility News in the upper right hand corner of our site, and you will be notified when the next installment in our Aging and Driving series is posted.
What do you think about aging and driving? Please share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.