December 5-9th 2022 is Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. We highlight the vital role that mobility and transportation play to keep older adults active in their communities.
As we age, physical changes can affect our driving. The decline in vision and certain medical conditions, as well as medications with drowsy side effects, can negatively impact driving safety and other lifestyle considerations such as changes in routine, diet, and exercise.
If you notice your elder loved one struggling to focus on the road, act immediately. There are many initial steps to stay safe. A simple appointment with an eye doctor, or signing up for a course designed specifically for seniors can help significantly and may be all that is needed before making the difficult decision to stop driving. Also, try discussing limiting to only driving during the daytime. Not only is driving at night dangerous for older adults with eyesight problems, but it can also be difficult for them to switch between low light conditions and glare. A safer upgrade is also something to consider. In recent years there have been a lot of safety advancements that have been made standard in newer cars. These safety features include a backup camera, automatic emergency breaks, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and driver attention warning. You can read more about this here. For a complete list of the safest cars in 2022 click here.
About 1/3 of seniors are bothered by dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, or poor judgment while driving; 25% have a poor hearing; 20% have trouble with glare from headlights or bright sunlight during night driving; 10% have vision problems so severe they require help reading road signs or scanning traffic lights–and 4% report symptoms of depression which may cause impairments that affect how they drive.
Talking to a loved one about their driving might be overwhelming. For many of us, the ability to drive represents freedom, control, and independence. Having this revoked can cause unwarranted tension. To avoid conflict, try approaching the situation with the advice stated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on how to understand and influence older drivers.
If you or a loved one is feeling less confident behind the wheel, there are some steps you can take for everyone to stay safe.
- Check if medications have side effects that can impact driving. You can talk to your doctor about the medications you take and possible side effects and tell them if you experience blurry vision, dizziness, sleepiness, confusion, and/or loss of consciousness.
- Attend a virtual CarFit event by clicking here.
- Take a refresher driving course to help keep your driving knowledge fresh and might even help you save money on insurance. DMV offers a Mature Driver Course and AAA offers a course that can be taken online called Roadwise Driver.
- Have your eyes checked regularly and wear your glasses as directed.
- Plan your route before you get going and consider bringing a friend with you.
- Assess how changes associated with aging affect your driving by using this NHTSA tool
- Keep moving! No matter your age staying active helps keep you stronger and driving safely longer in life. Read more about how healthy aging can help you be a better driver
- Keep public transportation as an option! Greater Mercer TMA can help assist with our travel training programs. Our goal with these programs is to help seniors be more confident using public transportation which also helps seniors be more mobile and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- If you live in Mercer County, check out our RideProvide transportation program, a door-to-door transportation program for seniors 65 and over and visually impaired adults.
- Download our mobility guides to help you understand how to travel by bus, train, or light rail in both Mercer County and Ocean County.
Contact Steve DaCosta, firstname.lastname@example.org, to request information or register for a travel training event.