Here’s a lesser known fact: Road accidents are the leading cause of deaths not only among teens in the United States, but also in the older population. According to reports, the fatality rate for drivers aging 85 years and older per mile driven is nine times higher than the rate for drivers 25 to 69 years old.
As you age, it’s normal that your driving abilities may change. As your vision gets blurred, your hearing abilities decrease, and your pace becomes slower, you’ll experience difficulty in driving. By observing safe driving practices and reducing risk factors, however, you can still continue driving into your senior years.
How Aging Affects Driving
You may have a lot of experience on the road and take great pride in your safety record, but it’s important to accept the fact that your driving abilities will change as you get older. Factors such as impaired hearing and slowed motor reflexes can become a problem and hamper your driving skills.
Aging results in a reduction of strength, focus, flexibility, and coordination, all of which can have a major impact on your ability to safely drive. For instance, leg pain due to arthritis can make it difficult for you to move your foot from the gas to the brake pedal. Stiffness in your neck can also make it harder for you to look at both sides of the road to change lanes or to check for pedestrians. Diminished arm strength can hamper your ability to turn the steering wheel quickly and effectively.
Tips for Safe Senior Driving
While aging can diminish your driving abilities, it shouldn’t mean that you need to give up the keys. There are things that you can do to continue driving safely, including understanding and correcting physical issues that may interfere with driving, modifying your vehicle, and changing some of your driving habits. To keep you in shape and fit for driving, it’s important to visit a doctor regularly. Have your eyes and ears checked and wear corrective lenses and hearing aids if needed. Sleep well and find ways to reduce or manage stress.
It would also help if you check with car dealers to get a vehicle with power steering, automatic transmission, and anti-lock braking system, and to keep the car in good working condition with scheduled maintenance. Make sure to keep the mirrors, windshield, and headlights clean at all times.
As you age, it’s important to know your limitations and to prioritize your health and safety. Even if you’ve spent most of your life driving, know when it’s time to hand over the keys to someone more capable. Adjusting to life without a car may be challenging at first, but you’ll eventually realize that putting the safety of yourself and others first is more important than losing your independence.