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Seniors and Driving Safety

Seniors and Driving Safety

Most of us take driving for granted – merely a means of getting from point A to point B. In reality, with rare exception, getting behind the wheel is the single most dangerous activity we engage in on any given day, and auto accidents remain a leading cause of death.

Safely operating a car requires mental and physical fitness. Good vision and hearing are essential, as are quick reflexes. Cognitive acuity, including the ability to multi-task, also is crucial. Aging is accompanied by changes in mental and physical fitness, and these changes can negatively impact driving ability.

The first week of December is Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. In support of this educational initiative, ATRIO Health Plans is sharing safety tips for older drivers, along with warning signs that a senior may no longer be safe behind the wheel.

Safety Tips

Being a senior doesn't mean your driving days are over. However, maximizing safety is a must, so it's recommended that older drivers:

  • Avoid driving at night if their vision is declining.
  • Plan outings in off-peak traffic hours, e.g., after morning and evening rush periods.
  • Keep windshields as well as mirrors clean, and don't tint windows.
  • Reduce distractions by turning off the radio and curbing conversations with passengers.
  • Listen for sirens and watch for emergency vehicles.
  • Maintain a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you, approximately one car length for every ten miles an hour.
  • Make sure windshield-wiper blades are in good condition.
  • Always opt for a car with an automatic transmission.
  • Have their hearing and vision tested regularly.
  • Make sure that any medication they're taking doesn't impair driving ability.
  • Don't drive if they're feeling tired, lightheaded, or stressed.
  • Stay off the roads during inclement weather.
  • Limit trips to familiar streets and locations close to home.
  • Always wear their seat belt.

Warning Signs

As our chronological ages rises, our driving abilities often decline. The following warning signs are listed in order of severity. If an older driver is exhibiting warning signs toward the list's end, it is likely time to stop driving.

  • Feeling uncomfortable about driving.
  • Having difficulty turning to see when backing up.
  • Braking frequently or riding the brake.
  • Being easily distracted while driving.
  • Taking actions that frequently prompt other drivers to honk.
  • Failing to signal properly.
  • Struggling to park correctly.
  • Hitting curbs, poles, garage or other objects/structures.
  • Becoming increasingly agitated while driving.
  • Making turns poorly.
  • Driving at improper speeds.
  • Requiring the assistance of a passenger to reach destination.
  • Coming dangerously close to having an accident.
  • Receiving moving violations or warnings.
  • Getting lost in familiar places.
  • Failing to stop at a stop sign or red light.
  • Confusing the gas and brake pedals.
  • Stopping in traffic without reason.
  • Causing one or more accidents.

Surrendering Your License

Voluntarily surrendering your driver's license is an extremely difficult decision to make, but if you're no longer safe behind the wheel, there simply is no other choice.

Fortunately, doing the right thing is easily accomplished:

  • Schedule an appointment at your local department of motor vehicles.
  • Complete any required voluntary surrender forms.
  • Apply for an identification card.

By surrendering your license not only are you keeping yourself and others out of harm's way, but you'll also probably see a boost to your budget by eliminating auto insurance, car maintenance, and the need for gas. Also, depending on the condition of your car, you may be able to sell it and give yourself a financial cushion.

Sources:

https://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/Older-Driver-Safety-Awareness-Week/Monday-Full-Article.aspx

https://www.dmv.org/how-to-guides/senior-driving.php

https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/olddrive/Driving%20Safely%20Aging%20Web/page1.html

https://s0.hfdstatic.com/sites/the_hartford/files/we-need-to-talk-2012.pdf

https://www.statefarm.com/simple-insights/auto-and-vehicles/20-safe-driving-tips-for-seniors