Did you know the first week in December is always Older Driver Safety Awareness Week? While the annual awareness campaign has already passed, many of this year’s topics are year-round concerns. For example, short of an accident, how do you know when an older loved one’s driving is unsafe? What can be done about it?
While there is no set age when seniors should stop driving, there are warning signs to heed. Let us share with you four areas that family members and friends of older drivers should consider together.
1. Vision. It is no secret that eyesight diminishes with age. The question is, how much? Updated glasses prescriptions and corrective lenses are critically important when driving, especially if a senior adult has experienced glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration. Cutting back on driving at night and in bad weather are two easy ways to reduce vision-related risks.
2. Hearing. Hearing loss is another normal part of the elder aging process. As hearing declines, however, so does the ability to listen for car horns, sirens, and even noises coming from the senior’s own car. Regular hearing check-ups are strongly recommended, and senior drivers should always wear hearing aids, when applicable, while eliminating unnecessary noise from inside their vehicle.
3. Joint and Muscle Dexterity. With age, joints can stiffen and muscles weaken. Arthritis, for instance, is common among Older Americans and can adversely impact driving whether it is the ability to view a rear blindspot, turn the steering wheel, or brake suddenly. Building strength and flexibility through physical activity is useful, as are certain vehicle modifications such as adding large mirrors and installing low-exertion hand controls for both the gas and brake pedals.
4. Reaction Time and Reflexes. A combination of factors along with normal aging can contribute to delayed reaction times and slower reflexes. Sometimes they are the result of medical conditions like Parkinson’s Disease or a stroke. In any case, the dangers are self-evident when getting behind the wheel. If driving is not entirely ruled out, consider taking steps to limit as many risks as possible, such as planning routes, staying close to home and avoiding traffic.
We know this can be a difficult conversation to have with your senior loved ones, and an even more difficult conversation to have with yourself. Despite the uncomfortableness of the topic, however, it is critical that you start the conversation early. If you need help on this, or any elder care issue, we encourage you not to wait to contact our law firm. Let us help you navigate these challenges as your trusted advocate now, or any time in the future.