Safety on the Road for Aging Drivers
Helen's first car was a navy blue 1959 Monte Carlo. In her first 48 years of driving, she was
accident free; however, beginning in 2010, she was involved in several minor fender benders. At
82 years of age, Helen is still in adequate physical health with a sharp mind- she still considers
herself a good driver, but why do these accidents continue to occur?
Helen's story is not uncommon and you might have asked yourself these same questions.
Helen might be your mother, sister, grandmother or friend. Just because you or a loved one is
getting older doesn't always mean it is time to stop driving; however, there are several changes
associated with aging that everyone should be aware of.
One of the most important abilities to have when driving is the power to react quickly. Other
drivers, road conditions, weather, heavy traffic and several additional components make it
necessary to think and react fast. Over time as muscles weaken, it might be more difficult to
move quickly. Furthermore, it might be harder to think quickly as well. By following these tips,
you or a loved one can avoid accidents:
-break early when you know you need to stop
-for every 10 mıles per hour you drive, leave 10 feet of space. (ex. 40 miles per hour/ forty feet
behind the car in front of you)
-Avoid high traffic areas when possible
-Call your local AAA agency and ask if defensive driving classes are offered. AARP also offers
-Use the right hand lane on the expressway. Because traffic moves slower in this lane, you will
have more time to think and make decisions.
-Be conscious that your mind and body might be going through changes. Talk about these
changes with your doctor during annual checkups.
Diseases and conditions such as stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, dementia and other
ailments may limit one's ability to operate a vehicle and, therefore, it might be time to stop
driving. Alzheimer's disease and dementia can make driving difficult because limited memory
can cause one to forget how to get to simple places such as the *bank or grocery. The worst
part of these conditions is that the driver might not realize what is going on and thus doesn't
recognize a problem. In the case of a stroke or arthritis, driving may be more difficult because
reaction times and the ability to move quickly can sometimes be greatly diminished. If you or a
loved one is at risk *for any of these conditions, have a doctor evaluate your overall condition.
Weakening muscles and stiff joints are common with aging. This can make it harder to turn your
head or to turn the steering wheel quickly. Being physically active is a benefit to your health
overall and can loosen your body so that these physical maneuvers can be made easier. Another
good idea for aging drivers is to drive with an automatic transmission and as always, make your
doctor aware if stiffness or discomfort is getting in the way of your ability to drive.
The ability to hear while driving is of utmost importance. Horns, sirens, sounds from your
vehicle and other external noises are warnings that could result in injury or even death if
ignored. Beginning at age 50, American Hearing Association recommends having your hearing
checked every 3 years. Many hearing issues can be treated by a doctor and in severe cases, a
hearing aid can successfully improve hearing ability. Keeping the car quiet by not blaring the
radio is always good advice even for people with no hearing loss.
Eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma decrease the ability to see
properly while medications can also complicate proper vision. Even if you or a loved one has
not been diagnosed with these ailments, decreased vision is usually associated with aging,
thereby making it difficult to read signs, recognize places and gauge how soon you need to
break. By visiting an optometrist, you can have your overall vision tested and also learn about
removing a cataract if necessary. In addition to this, it's a good idea to avoid night driving as this
is the most dangerous time for the visually impaired to be on the road.
It is not unusual to increase your intake of medications as you get older. Various medications
have a wide arrange of side effects and many can make you feel lightheaded, drowsy and not
fully alert. Because all drugs affect people differently, it is best to consult a doctor or pharmacist
with a full list of your medications.
When is it Time to Stop Driving?
The thought of having to stop driving can be overwhelming and depressing; however, it's one
of the most important decisions you will have to make because continuing to drive when you
shouldn't puts yourself and others in danger.
Because each individual ages at a different rate with different circumstances, there is no set age
when you should cease driving. To help you answer this question, you should ask yourself the
– Do I find myself lost even on roads that are familiar?
– Have loved ones or my doctor commented on my safety when driving?
– Do people, cars or objects seem to appear abruptly and without warning?
– Is it often that other cars honk at me?
– Is staying in my lane an issue?
– Do I not drive as often as I used to because I am questioning my own driving ability?
– Do I have trouble effectively using the break and gas pedals? Do I ever confuse the two?
If you are answering yes to most of these questions, it might be time to consider other
transportation options. While sacrificing your license might feel like losing your independence,
you are protecting yourself and others. If you answer yes to only a few of these questions, it is
best to consult your doctor and loved ones to determine how you can maximize your safe driving
At SafeHarbor Home Care, we provide care to meet more than just the medical needs of
our clients. Our trained caregivers provide services that maintain our clients' dignity and
independence and their quality of life. We know that it so important, especially during periods
of illness and recovery, for people to be in familiar surroundings and continue to enjoy daily
Please contact SafeHarbor to learn how we can help you or a family member with the activities
of daily living, including help outside the home. Our licensed and trained caregivers can
accompany you or a loved one wherever you need to go–medical appointments, errands, family
or social outgoings. Call us–we can help