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Senior Driving Safety; What You Should Know

There is no greater feeling than being able to get out on your own and run errands, or go and do the things you enjoy. In fact many of us still remember the day when our parents first handed over the keys, stepped out of our way, and allowed us to go out on the road and drive ourselves.
As we got older however, our driver’s license became more than just a symbol of freedom, it became the identification that never left our possession. As we commuted to the places where we worked, learned, and developed, the roads we traveled became the backdrop to the stories that made up our lives.

However, as we get older, there are a lot of things to think about when it comes to driving. We have to decide whether or not changes need to be made, that will make our trips safer for us and the other people on the road. We have to consider how our driving capabilities are changing, the risk factors, and what solutions we can consider when it becomes necessary.

Here’s some things to think about with regards to being a senior, and driving safety.

Physical Condition

  • Your physical well-being is directly linked to your driving capabilities. 

You’ll probably need to think about some aspects of your physical health, before determining whether or not it’s appropriate for you to continue driving. You must consider physical abilities, to determine the safety of you continuing to get behind the wheel. 

  • Your vision, hearing, and balance are three of the most critical aspects of your physical health that come into play while you’re driving a vehicle.

In all three cases, you can get accurate assessment of your physical limitations, if there are any, from a medical professional. 

It can be especially difficult to distinguish street signs, safety markers, stoplights, hazards, other cars, pedestrians, and even instruments inside your car that are critical to driving safely, if your vision is deteriorating or limited. 

You may want to consider restricting yourself to driving only during the daytime, to minimize the risk of having an accident, as driving at night often makes it more difficult to see, as we get older. As much as possible, avoid driving in hazardous weather, such as rain, snow, or sleet, as risk factors rise and these kinds of weather conditions can make it more difficult to see through the windshield. 

If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure you have them in your car before heading out on the road. 

The ability to hear well is an essential component of driving. When you’re driving, hearing the sounds inside and outside your car reveal a lot about what’s going on in traffic, and around the vehicle you’re driving. If you can’t distinguish between emergency sirens, cars, pedestrians, and other objects on the road, you’ll be less likely to make good decisions quickly. Turning down any unnecessary sounds, such as your car radio while driving, is a perfect way to improve your driving ability while behind the wheel. 

When you’re driving, your physical coordination comes into play. Aches, pains, and other conditions can limit your range of motion, making it difficult to perform the motions required for safe driving. Reaching to move or looking over your shoulder to search a blind spot are examples of these movements. 

Your overall physical fitness is a distinct variable in which you should be completely frank with yourself. Any chronic physical ailments you have can have a significant impact on driving safety. Others can be placed in danger as a result of these conditions. Consult your doctor about any physical issues, and especially if you have diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, or other chronic illnesses that could cause you to lose control, consciousness, or focus while on the road. 

Mental health is just as important to driving safety, as your physical health is. 

Your mental capacity to manage the tasks associated with driving down the road, is just as critical as your physical condition when it comes to your ability to manage a vehicle responsibly. 

Your response time is one of the first things to remember. Are you able to remember important details while driving? Are you capable of making fast decisions to protect yourself and others? Is it possible for your brain to register the acts needed to carry out these decisions, and send a signal to your body to make the necessary changes, within a reasonable time frame? 

As you get older, you might start to doubt your ability to rely on your brain to react quickly when faced with a challenge. When it comes to your driving capacity, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor questions about your reflexes and response time. 

There are a variety of mental conditions that can negatively impact your driving abilities, making it more risky for you to be on the road. Men and women with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia should talk to their doctors about the reality of whether or not it’s safe to continue to drive. Milder conditions that can impair you are stress, attention span, and focus, so these should all be considered as well. Many of these issues can be reduced or eliminated entirely by making minor changes to your driving routine, technique or the vehicle itself.  

After considering the risks, you might decide that surrendering your driver’s license is appropriate. There are however, some ways to alter your driving experience and improve your ability to continue to drive safely. With a few tweaks, you could continue to live your life on the road, while being reponsible for yourself and others. 

The first step in putting yourself and your loved ones at ease is to be mindful of your prescription drugs, and how they affect your driving. Many drivers, regardless of age, disregard warning labels on prescription medications, when they are advised not to operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery while taking the drug, putting others and themselves in grave danger. To make a responsible decision, you must be vigilant in learning the side effects of any prescriptions you take on a regular basis. You and others would benefit greatly if you stop driving while under the influence of anything that can impair your vision, or mental focus while on the road. 

When the years of driving yourself are coming to a close, and the time does come to surrender your drivers license, there are many alternatives available that can keep you active and enjoying life, without putting yourself or others at risk. There are options like ride shares, or public transportation and assisted living communities like Silverbell Homestead, where life as a senior is active and enjoyable, while you continue to engage socially and thrive.

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