Driving for the elderly poses two major challenges: mobility and safety. As much as they may try to preserve independent mobility and activity, their safety is hampered by cognitive limitations and physical frailty. There is an increasing number of elderly people holding driving licenses. Therefore, it is crucial to foster safe driving for old people. Having the right balance between safety and mobility is a complex task and a sensitive matter.
In addressing the issue of driving among the elderly, accommodating their driving behavior and pattern in response to their weakening driving skills is key. This can be achieved by engaging in social and policy procedures with the use of emerging technologies.
Employing advanced technologies helps to supervise driving behavior and movement, allowing the making of required alterations based on driving history.
What Makes Senior Drivers At Risks
Changes in the health of seniors will likely affect their driving skills over time. Age-related vision problems and cognitive functioning, including physical changes, put elderly drivers at risk.
Visibility of the road signs and pavement markings is another factor that makes senior driving a risk. Lettering, size, and color need to be improved for elderly drivers who suffer visual impairment arising from glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, etc.
Intersections is another factor that puts elderly drivers at risk. To help alleviate the problem, low-cost modifications need to be implemented, including improving the visibility of traffic lights and adding a dedicated left-turn lane. This helps reduce the occurrence of road accidents among elderly drivers by 13 percent. Converting traffic signals or stop signs to roundabouts helps reduce road crashes by 76 percent.
Medical Conditions That Can Make Senior Driving Risky
Medical conditions affect the elderly’s driving ability, over time. They include:
Trouble with Eyesight
As people get older, eyesight can start to deteriorate. It becomes hard to see things, move outside in a direct line of light and see people. Therefore, this goes to affect the reading of traffic and street signs and even recognition of familiar places.
At night, seniors are likely to see things clearly, and the glare from oncoming headlights or street lights complicates the situation. Elderly 65 years or older need to see an eye doctor every year on ways to improve their eyesight. They can wear contact lenses to enable them to see far incoming objects, things, or people while driving.
Stiff Muscles and Joints
The elderly are likely to experience stiff muscles and joints. Arthritis, also a common condition among the elderly, may affect their ability to drive. These medical conditions affect the swift ability to turn the head to look back, brake safely, or turn the steering wheel quickly.
Seniors should drive vehicles made with power steering, automatic transmission, large mirrors, and power brakes. Try keeping up with physical exercise that improves muscle flexibility and strength. Add hand controls if you experience leg problems to help with controlling the brake pedals and the gas.
Reflexes and Slow to React
As people grow older, their reflexes perform slower. Thus, they don’t react as quickly as they did in the past. It is for this reason that seniors experience a shorter attention span, which makes it hard to multitask, including while driving.
Tingling in the fingers and feet, and loss of feeling make it harder to use the pedals or steer. To be on the safe side, leave space between the car in front and your car. As much as possible, avoid areas with heavy traffic or rush hour driving. When driving in a fast-moving lane, keep it to the left-hand side as traffic there usually moves slowly.
Hearing for the elderly changes with time, making it harder to notice sirens, horns, and even the sound of a coming car. This is a risk factor because such sounds can be a warning sign to get out of the way or pull over.
Seniors should discuss with their doctor concerns in hearing to get help. While driving, the inside of the car should be maintained as quietly as possible.
Seniors take medicine that can cause them to feel drowsy, less alert than usual, or lightheaded. Elderly drivers should check their medication labels for warning about driving. Medication side effects make driving unsafe. The doctor should be informed about medication being currently administered for advice on how to avoid it affecting elderly driving.
When Is It Time For Seniors To Hand The Keys Over?
People age differently. Thus, there is no telling a specific age at which a senior should stop driving. Although senior driving tests can help, another way to decide the timing for seniors to hand the keys over is by observing if:
- Other drivers often honk at him or her
- The person gets lost even on familiar roads
- He or she gets distracted while driving
- Confidence in driving ability is reduced
What Makes Seniors Unfit for The Road
There are tell-tale signs that indicate a senior is no longer fit to drive. Observing the person’s driving skills helps to identify the signs, together with looking out for the following:
- Frequent occurrence of ‘near misses’ or crashes
- Anxiety about driving at night
- People’s comments, being worried about elderly driving habits
- Sudden lane changes while driving, and complaints about speeding
How To Test Your Senior At Home
The following are ways to test your senior at home and encourage him or her to be a safer elderly driver:
- Have him or her take a refresher course, including AARP and AAA, on defensive driving. Book a driving instructor to highlight to him or her important safety precautions.
- Have eyesight checked annually, and also check for hearing impairment. Don’t forget to monitor for cognitive deficits.
- Have him participate in physical fitness exercises for you to observe for signs of weakness in strength and flexibility
Ways Your Senior Can Renew Their License
Most states offer several provisions as driving test for seniors. What is the new rule for senior drivers. They include shorter renewal cycles, in-person renewal—not through electronic or mail, and vision and road testing. Each state has its own requirements for special regulations for driving tests for elderly drivers. Inquire in your state for regulations that apply to driving test for elderly drivers.
Whether you plan on caregiving for the rest of your senior’s life or only for a short while, it’s never too early to look into finding a senior community. Most communities provide transportation to and from appointments and outings. Our senior advisors are eager to help you find the perfect senior community!