Continuing Driving Safely
All people, not just older adults, value their sense of freedom and having the ability to come and go as we please. One of the biggest parts of that freedom, one that older adults are usually resistant to giving up, is driving. But as the body ages, so too do our abilities and senses, and it is important to be mindful of any changes to our driving habits. Older drivers, especially above the age of 70, have a higher per-mile risk of being involved in a car accident.
While your natural instinct when your friends, family, doctor, and others express concern for your driving may be to feel anger, it is important to remember they are only concerned for you, and can be great sources of information. If they’re letting you know they’re concerned, it may be time to look carefully at your driving.
There are several factors that affect our driving as we age, and they are important to keep in mind when getting behind the wheel.
- Vision and hearing loss: The acuity of both senses decline as we age, making it vital to have regular checkups to make sure you can still hear horns, sirens, and see the flow of traffic
- Cognition and reaction time: Driving successfully requires many skills simultaneously. Impaired processing skills can make it harder.
- Motor function: Stiff joints and muscles can make tasks like steering difficult.
- Medical conditions: Chronic medical conditions, or the medication to treat them, can impair driving.
Adaptations can help you stay on the road longer. Larger rear or side mirrors, pedal extensions, hand controls, wheel knobs, leg lifters, and more are all available. A clinical evaluation will determine if any of these are best for you.