Driving is often important to older drivers and helps them remain independent and mobile. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a person ages, his or her risk of injury on the road increases. Older adults and family members need to make plans for decreased mobility and acknowledge when it is no longer safe for a loved one to continue driving.
In rural and suburban communities, driving is a necessity for independent living. With limited resources for older individuals to get around, seniors may drive longer than is safe and practical. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2009 alone, 5,288 people age 65 and older were killed, and 187,000 were injured in traffic accidents. Older people are involved in about 15 percent of all traffic accidents in a typical year.
Getting older doesn’t mean it’s time for you or a loved one to turn in your license just yet. Instead, people can come together to make driving go smoothly by beginning with an honest conversation.
* Let a loved one know you are on his or her side. Make sure your loved one knows it is not your intention to take away the car keys. Indicate that you want to work together to help keep this person behind the wheel as long as possible. Being open and honest about intentions helps eliminate resistance.
* Determine safe ways to keep your loved one driving. This may include a new car with upgraded safety features, such as brighter headlights, a back-up camera, and improved safety record. Enroll together in a driving safety course to brush up on skills.
* Go for a “test drive.” Ride along with an older driver to get a better sense of his or her driving ability. If drivers have too many close calls, frequently get lost in familiar places, exhibit slower response times, or are easily distracted, it is a wake-up call for loved ones to intervene.
* Schedule a vision and hearing exam. Driving abilities are affected by poor vision and hearing, both common side effects of getting older. A new eyeglass prescription or better hearing aid may make a difference in his or her driving ability.
* Review prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Many older adults take several medications, and side effects to these drugs, such as drowsiness or dizziness, could impact driving ability. It may help to speak to your loved one’s physician about alternative medications that might make driving safer.
* Be honest. If an older driver is no longer safe behind the wheel, it is important to involve other family members and make a joint decision to remove driving privileges. Have other solutions available, such as someone to drive your loved one places so that he or she is not confined to the house.
Here in Western New York, Tim Stevenson of Tim’s Valet has been transporting older adults to where they need and want to go safely – even if it is for a day out on the town with a friend. Tim also offers wheelchair van service. To schedule a trip and learn more about Tim visit www.timsvalet.com or call 948-7829.