Senior drivers may have more experience on the road than younger drivers but they are more likely to have medical issues that may interfere with driving ability. It’s crucial for all seniors to keep careful track of their medical conditions and speak with their doctors about any concerns as soon as they arise. If a senior relies on driving every day, it’s important to keep close tabs on any changes in vision, reaction time, memory, coordination, or other physiological issues that may impact driving ability.
Keep Track of Physical Changes
Many older adults suffer from arthritis and other types of muscle and joint pains. These issues may make it difficult to operate a vehicle’s controls, especially during an emergency situation where the driver needs to shift, brake, or swerve to avoid a collision. Muscle and joint pain can potentially make it difficult to safety check rear-view mirrors and blind spots before turns and lane changes.
Stress and fatigue can also pose more risk to older drivers than younger ones. Stress can aggravate other medical conditions in senior drivers and make driving more difficult. Depending on how long the driver will remain behind the wheel, fatigue can also pose a major problem and significantly increase the risk of an accident. Senior drivers should plan carefully before making any long trips.
Be Careful with Medications
Many senior drivers take prescription medications for at least one medical issue. Some medicines can impact driving ability, so it’s crucial for older drivers to keep close track of the potential side effects of their medications, when they take doses, and how long doses last. Medication can cause problems if a senior driver stays behind the wheel too long without access to a necessary medication, misses a dose, accidentally double-doses, or takes medications that cause adverse side effects right before driving.
Schedule Regular Hearing and Vision Tests
Our sensory faculties are often the first bodily systems to experience deterioration from aging. Hearing and vision are very important for drivers to avoid accidents, and some states have even adopted laws mandating hearing and vision checks for drivers over certain ages. These drivers will need to undergo the required screenings before they can complete a driver’s license renewal. Senior drivers who use contacts or eyeglasses should always wear them while driving.
Deteriorated hearing and vision can make it more difficult to navigate the road at night, during inclement weather, or during heavy traffic congestion. Poor hearing may lead to a senior driver failing to notice an emergency siren or car horn in time to avoid a collision. Poor vision can make it unsafe to drive at night or during low-light conditions.
Defensive driving is a wise choice for drivers of all ages but senior drivers should be as realistic as possible about their driving abilities and use extra caution. “Defensive driving” refers to a driver taking a passive, anticipatory approach to driving rather than an aggressive one. This means braking early, maintaining awareness of the vehicle’s surroundings, and being more passive in busier areas.
Senior drivers also benefit from avoiding busy areas. Traffic congestion can make it very difficult to maintain situational awareness. An older driver struggling with hearing or vision loss may have even more trouble navigating traffic jams. Defensive driving and avoiding busy areas are great ways for senior drivers to avoid car accidents.
Older drivers may not enjoy the idea of surrendering a driver’s license, but it is essential for drivers of all ages to be realistic about their driving ability and acknowledge when it may be time to accept that it is too dangerous to keep driving. However, senior drivers may also be able to make a few changes to their routines that make driving safer, such as avoiding driving at night, planning routes in advance, and keeping close tabs on medical issues that impact driving ability. This helps senior drivers stay on the road longer and more safely.