Older adults are often loath to give up driving. For many, their car keys are a symbol of independence and self-sufficiency, so it can be difficult to consider giving them up. But to ensure seniors’ safety — as well as the safety of others on the roads — it’s important to know the signs that may make driving more dangerous.
What Changes Could Make Driving More Dangerous?
Getting older doesn’t automatically equate to deteriorated driving skills, but age-related health conditions can impede a person’s faculties. Here are some of the changes to look out for:
Vision Impairment. Common eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration can hinder older adults’ vision. It may become more difficult to see pedestrians, read street signs, or check the speedometer. Older eyes may also take longer to shift focus from near to far, thus limiting their ability to react quickly when needed.
Weaker Muscles and Limited Flexibility. Age naturally leads to diminished muscle mass, which can make steering a bit more challenging. And stiff joints caused by arthritis can make it difficult to grip the wheel or to quickly turn your head and check your blind spot.
Cognitive Challenges. Research confirms that aging can affect how quickly a person can process visual information and respond to what they see. Seniors may also notice a decline in the visuospatial abilities necessary to navigate a vehicle safely.
Hearing Loss. According to research from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 50% of adults over age 75 have significant hearing loss. Driver safety often relies on auditory cues, and people with hearing loss may not hear sirens, car horns or other cars.
Medication Side Effects. There are a number of prescriptions with side effects that can impair a person’s driving skills. Ask your doctor about your regular medications, but AAA lists sleep medicines, tranquilizers, cough medicines, some antidepressants, narcotic pain pills, decongestants and antihistamines as some of the common medications to look out for.
Senior Driving Safety Tips: Stay Safe Behind the Wheel
Even though age can bring challenges in driving, you can take steps to make sure you’re safer on the road. Here are five senior driving safety tips to help older adults stay safe.
1. Schedule Regular Vision and Hearing Tests
Some of the previously mentioned vision and hearing problems can happen gradually, meaning a senior may not notice when their senses have become too altered to drive safely. No one wants to be unable to respond adequately to important visual or auditory clues. Schedule regular appointments with your physicians. Ask the experts how often to get your vision and hearing tested. The answer may vary based on age and preexisting conditions.
2. Keep Physically Active
You may not think about your driving skills when you’re signing up for yoga or water aerobics, but consistent physical activity strengthens muscles and promotes flexibility. With more strength and better flexibility, you can control the steering wheel more easily and turn to check your blind spots with no problem when you’re changing lanes.
3. Manage Your Medications
Warning labels on some medications advise takers not to operate heavy machinery or drive while taking it. But others can cause dizziness or disorientation without announcing it obviously on the bottle. Consult your doctor or pharmacist to ask about the side effects of your prescriptions that could affect your driving abilities.
4. Refresh Your Driving Skills
Refresher courses are smart options for older drivers because it tests your reflexes, knowledge and overall driving skills. Older adults are more vulnerable if they’re involved in a crash, so these classes that sharpen your abilities can be life-saving.
5. Drive When the Roads Are Safe
Unfavorable weather conditions like snow or heavy rain make roads treacherous. And driving at night means lower visibility in any conditions. If you have any hesitation about driving in certain weather, stay where you are and wait until the streets are safer.
While residents are very welcome to keep their cars (in fact, we have valet services for your convenience), The Buckingham provides easy transportation services to help you get where you need to go in Houston — even if you’ve hung up your car keys. Whether you’re still driving or not, The Buckingham will keep you connected to the life you love. If you’d like to find out more, contact us.