Safety on the Road: Driving in the Later Years of Life

Driving offers the independence that many aging adults want to maintain for as long as possible. But, it is essential to ensure safety on the road, to protect yourself and other people in the area. It has been found that older drivers have a higher risk of collision when they are behind the wheel.

Why Driving Skills are Limited

What causes driving skills to decrease later in life? There are several potential issues that could lead to accidents on the road:

  • Stiff Muscles and Joints: Aging causes the muscles to weaken and the joints to become stiff. As a result, it becomes more difficult to have the agility needed for checking your blind spot, turning the steering wheel, or braking down.
  • Vision Problems: Many older adults suffer from vision problems, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. These eye diseases can make it harder to see the street signs and other people around your car. Vision problems often get worse at night because of the glare or halos that might be around street lights and headlights.
  • Slower Reflexes: It is common for people not to have the ability to react as quickly as they could when they were younger.
  • Medications: Do you take any prescription or over-the-counter medications? Side effects of these drugs could potentially have a negative impact on driving. If a medication makes you less alert or feel lightheaded, then you need to ask your doctor if it is safe to be on the road.
  • Hearing Loss:. If you can’t hear sirens or horns, then you might not be aware of circumstances that are happening nearby.
  • Memory Loss: Some older adults can have trouble remembering their route or where they intended to go. Problems in this area may indicate a need for cognitive screening.

Questions about Your Driving Ability?

There are things you can do to ensure you are safe on the road. These include:  scheduling an evaluation with a driving rehabilitation specialist, such as an occupational therapist or another trained professional; driving only under favorable conditions such as daylight and good weather; completely avoiding alcohol if you are going to be driving, especially if you are taking medications that might interact with alcohol; using only surface streets or other routes that make you most comfortable; and looking for a safe driving course in your community.

At Windward Life Care, we can help you find the right resources to support your independence. Contact our team to learn more about the services that are available.