A lot of things get better with age, but our driving skill isn’t one of them. As we grow older, we become more prone to traffic accidents. Drivers over the age of 65 are involved in more crashes per mile driven than any other age group except teenagers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nearly 600 older adults are injured every day in accidents behind the wheel.
December 7-11 is National Older Driver Safety Week, sponsored by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to educate seniors and their caregivers about the importance of safe transportation. The AOTA promotes safe driving strategies to help you or your senior in the Midwest safely maintain freedom and mobility.
Studies show that while driving ability might deteriorate with age, many seniors can continue driving safely.
Here are some tips to keep you or a senior loved one safe behind the wheel:
Evaluate performance: A senior’s ability to operate a vehicle safely depends on a wide range of factors, including mental and physical health. Rather than declaring yourself or an aging family member unfit to drive solely based on age, consider performance on the road.
- Do a self-assessment: There are a number of ways you can evaluate your driving. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends the online booklet, “Drivers 65 Plus: Check Your Performance.” This includes a 15-question checklist and tips for changing bad driving habits.
You can also take AAA’s interactive screening test on your computer it can identify visual, mental and physical issues that might make a senior’s driving unsafe.
- Get a professional evaluation: Many hospitals, physical therapy offices and organizations offer professional driving evaluations for older adults Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.
Take care of yourself: A Yale University study found that being in good, physical condition has a positive effect on a senior’s ability to drive safely.
- Exercise: Staying active increases oxygen to the brain, affecting awareness. It also helps keep muscles flexible, improving range of motion and reaction time. A study by the National Institute on Aging determined that even 15 minutes of exercise a day reduced one-third of driving errors.
- Get rest: A good night’s sleep increases alertness and reduces fatigue.
- Check your eyes and ears: Crisp, clear vision and hearing are an important part of driving safely. Make sure to get annual check-ups and to wear your glasses and hearing aids when driving. Use sunglasses that reduce glare and improve vision in bright sunlight.
Maintain your automobile: First and foremost, make sure the vehicle is safe and well maintained at all times. Replace broken mirrors and burnt blinker bulbs. Ensure that you can reach the gas pedal and brakes without stretching. Consider purchasing custom devices that improve safety by raising the driver’s seat, lifting the gas and brake pedals, and reducing blind spots.
Go back to driving school The AARP and AAA in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, offer local courses year-round to help seniors safely maintain their driving independence.
Check medications: Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review prescription and over-the counter medicines to make sure they won’t cause unsafe driving. If drugs may interact and cause drowsiness, you might ask for an alternative treatment. If you or your senior loved one is using a medication that causes drowsiness, ask when, if ever, it is safe to operate a car.
Be willing to park the car: Some driving situations put adults over 65 at a greater risk of an accident. Many seniors feel uncomfortable driving at night and in falling rain or in ice and snow. Commit to driving during the day and only in good weather. Be open to accepting a ride, calling a taxi or using a ride service when the weather is bad.
For more information about safe driving for seniors over 65, contact the AARP office in your state.