When It’s Time to
Give Up Driving by Anthony Leone
emember those early teenage years when we could not wait to get our driver’s license? We’d count the days until driver’s education, permits, and finally getting our driver’s license. We were free to drive ourselves to school, ball games, and movies with our friends. The independence, freedom, and responsibility of having our driver’s license was so exciting. As the years march on, and we start to drive everyday, we almost take for granted what a fundamental level of independence that driving provides in our daily lives. Now, many of us drive countless miles everyday without much thought. As we all get older, our vision, hearing, and reflexes eventually start to decline. For some it means that driving can become dangerous. Normal aging does affect driving, but there is certainly not a set age when a person is no longer safe behind the wheel. In fact, most people can safely drive well into their senior years. When people become unsafe to drive, it is generally the result of an underlying medical condition or medications, not reaching a certain age. In 2009, there were 33 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States. By 2012, that number increased as 14% of the total U.S. resident population (43.1 million people) were 65 and older. Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. We must be mindful that the statistics show that the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as you age. An average of 500 older adults are injured every day in crashes. Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and increase notably after age 80. This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety administration, in 2012, there were 5,560 people 65 and older killed and 214,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. These older people made up 17% of all traffic fatalities and 9% of all people injured in traffic crashes during the year. Compared to 2011, fatalities among people 65 and older increased by 3%. Among people injured in this age group there was a 16% increase from 2011. The good news is that evidence also shows that despite a growing number of senior drivers on the road, researchers have
found that they are crashing less often than just a decade ago. Senior drivers are also less likely to be injured or killed in a crash, compared to years past. This is thanks, in part, to seniors living longer, healthier and more active lives than ever before. Senior divers are also more likely to wear seatbelts, tend to drive in the safest conditions, and have lower incidences of impaired driving. Get involved by regularly checking the driving of your parent or other senior driver in your life. There are things that loved ones should look out for when assessing senior driver safety. Here are two common warning signs. First, watch for the senior driver who has been issued two or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past two years. Tickets can predict greatest risk for collision. Second, be mindful when the senior driver has been involved in two or more collisions or “near-misses” in the past two years. Rear-end crashes, parking lot fender-benders and side collisions while turning across traffic rank as the most common mishaps for drivers with diminishing skills, depth perception or reaction time. Thankfully, there are steps that older adults can take to stay safer on the roads: »» Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility. »» Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to reduce side effects and interactions. »» Have eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required. »» Drive during daylight and in good weather. »» Find the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking. »» Plan your route before you drive. »» Leave a large following distance behind the car in front of you. »» Avoid distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting, and eating. »» Consider potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend or using public transit that you can use to get around. Driving is a vital source of independence for seniors. Following these steps will help seniors drive well into their older years. @LIVINGSAFER / LIVINGSAFER.COM / 19
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