March 26, 2014 at 11:30 AM
Let’s face it; driving is one of our most important activities that allows us to live freely with the independence to come and go as we please. As time goes on though, that trip to the store or the doctor’s office gets more challenging. There are more and more vehicles on the road, and our little towns keep getting bigger with new developments and more traffic signals and hazards to navigate. As we age, one must also expect to experience changes in vision, hearing, the ability to react quickly and appropriately, as well as the ability to judge distances. These physical changes can have a direct effect on driver safety, and can place seniors at higher risk for accidents.
- Vision: Have regular. professional vision exams where problems may be corrected if diagnosed early enough. Our eyes provide us with 90% of the information needed to respond quickly to traffic signals, signs and road conditions. Peripheral vision and depth perception tend to decline over the years. When driving, turn your head and look to the sides often to compensate for diminished peripheral vision. By the age of 60, we need ten times more light to see an object as when we were 18! The way we see color also changes, particularly the color red, and an older person may take longer to see and react to brake lights or stop signs and red traffic lights, not to mention children loading and unloading from a school bus. Avoid tinted wind shields and wear quality sunglasses. Consider avoiding driving at night if possible.
- Hearing: Approximately one third of people over age 65 are hearing-impaired, yet it’s hard to recognize hearing loss since it tends to occur gradually. Steps should be taken to better ensure audible warnings such as sirens, horns, or large vehicle backup indicators are heard and reacted to. Seniors should avoid background noise such as music or audio books, never mind the noise and distraction of making or receiving mobile phone calls or utilizing the ever-increasing array of technology newer cars are equipped with. When weather permits, driving with even slightly open windows could help. Like vision, hearing should be checked regularly by a health professional.
- Flexibility: Having a full range of physical motion and mobility is critical to safe driving. Hand/eye coordination is essential as well. Driving is a physical activity where any level of weakness with flexibility, strength or coordination can be reckless. Practicing a regular exercise routine can help slow down the aging process while maintaining flexibility. Make sure you have been medically cleared by your doctor to resume driving after any procedures are done, no matter how small.
- Focus and Concentration: Safe driving requires concentration on what is happening all around you, and anticipating what will happen. As more and more medications are being prescribed to seniors, you must be aware of how medicines may impair the ability to focus, concentrate and make safe driving judgments. Conditions such as memory-impairment (dementia and Alzheimer’s disease) and Parkinson’s disease have dangerous physiological characteristics that should preclude operating a vehicle. Proactive consultation with a doctor and/or pharmacist is a must for keeping everyone on the road out of harms way!
Stay Better Prepared – Educate, Test, and Practice Good Habits
- Get a state driver’s handbook and refresh your knowledge on the rules of the road.
- Have a driving evaluation done at a rehabilitation or occupational health center.
- Take a driver’s refresher course through AARP, AAA, or The National Safety Council.
- Plan your route ahead of time, travel roads that are familiar, and avoid busy areas and highways. When making choices on service professionals that help you manage your life and health, consider where they are located and how accessible they are from a driving standpoint.
- Always stay informed on weather conditions and be willing to reschedule when possible. Be practical and prudent. Bad weather of any type is a variable you cannot afford to contend with or risk.
- Do not let yourself be distracted when driving. Explain this to your passengers when necessary.
- Make sure your vehicle is safe, well-maintained, comfortable and user-friendly.
Transportation is one of the many included services provided to Elms Campus residents. Why not leave the driving to our Chauffeurs? We regularly transport to scheduled appointments individually with our Towne Cars, and take our Bus on fun outings and shopping trips. It’s one of the reasons so many seniors choose to live worry-free at our community, and why most residents leave their car parked in our lot!