Search for “senior safety” on Google and you will find many results for home safety, purchasing medical alert buttons, and suggestions on how to find in-home care. Senior safety entails more than this. A discussion of senior safety must go beyond how to prevent falls at home or how to avoid financial scams. We must also address methods and techniques to maintain driving safety. Older drivers need to take extra precautions to avoid injuring themselves or others on the road.
The Truth About Driving And Senior Safety
The Centers for Disease Control has data that shows there are over 40 million licensed drivers above the age of 65 as of 2015. Despite the fact that the CDC acknowledges that driving a car can help people remain independent as they age, it is also true that your age can place you at greater risk on the road.
In 2014, car accidents resulted in over 5,700 senior deaths and 236,000 senior injuries that required treatment in emergency rooms. Those over the age of 85 are the highest risk group. According to the CDC reports the risk begins to increase as early as age 70. They have been able to attribute this to “an increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased risk of crash involvement.”
“Age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes, may affect some older adults’ driving abilities.” Experts also agree, however, that prevention doesn’t have to solely mean taking away a loved one’s keys. Prevention can instead be achieved by taking certain safety measures to ensure that elderly drivers can remain on the road.
By Famartin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Protecting Elderly Drivers
Regular exercise can help improve your safety record on the road. Research published in the Journal of Aging & Physical Activity found that adults over the age of 55 can benefit from a regular exercise program. This is especially true for senior drivers. The study found that regular exercisers were better overall drivers and demonstrated greater reaction time.
Make Regular Doctor’s Appointments
At your annual appointments with your primary care physician you should discuss how any prescription medications you take could affect your driving skills. In addition, you should keep regular appointments with specialists, including both eye and ear specialists. Changes that occur to both your hearing and vision can happen naturally with age and can increase your risk behind the wheel.
By Marcus Quigmire from Florida, USA (Drive Safely) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
An article published in the New York Times (Aug. 28, 2017) found that certain cars have features that can help to keep elderly drivers safer on the road. Power seats can benefit those with arthritis. The article also highlights such senior safety features as “power windows and mirrors, a thicker steering wheel that is easier to grip, keyless entry, an automatic tailgate closer and a push-button to start (and stop) the engine.”
Know Your Limits
You may begin to notice that it has become a challenge to drive at night or when it’s raining. Whenever possible avoid driving in those conditions. Be conscious of your own limits will help keep yourself safe and might also prevent yourself from injuring others.