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Safe Driving Tips for Seniors

With Older Driver Safety Awareness Week and the holidays both taking place December, now is the perfect time to discuss driver safety for seniors.

For those 65 and older, driving serves as a way to maintain independence and mobility. Plus, driving allows seniors to maintain an active presence in their communities. At the same time, as we age, driving can become increasingly difficult due to sensory, cognitive, and physical changes, such as declining vision and hearing, dementia, and sleep disorders. Those suffering from such conditions have a higher risk of being in a car accident. Moreover, certain over the counter medications and prescriptions that are used to treat pain, mood, and/or allergies can further impede a motorist’s driving abilities.

Consider the following statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • One in six drivers in the United States are 65 years or older.
  • Older adult drivers are more than twice as likely to report having a medical problem that makes it difficult to travel as compared with drivers ages 24‒
  • Four in five older adults take one or more medications daily. Physical changes that occur with age can change the way the body reacts to medicines, causing more side effects and affecting the ability to concentrate and drive safely.

In light of these revealing statistics, there are preventative measures that seniors can take in order to increase their safety on the road. First and foremost, seniors will want to schedule an appointment with their primary care doctor to discuss their medical conditions as well as current medications in order to address their potential impact on operating a vehicle. That being said, seniors are advised to pay close attention to any side effects they experience after taking their medications. For instance, if you encounter blurred vision, fatigue, dizziness, or loss of consciousness, you’ll want to immediately talk with your doctor or pharmacist about stopping or changing the medication as these side effects are particularly dangerous if they appear while driving.

Another task that senior drivers are encouraged to complete involves scheduling their annual eye exam. It’s important that your glasses or contact lenses reflect your latest eye prescription. You also need to remember to wear your glasses and lenses accordingly, especially if you are required to wear them while driving.

Familiarizing yourself with your route before getting behind the wheel is an additional tip that promotes safe driving. Consider utilizing driving tools such as Google maps, MapQuest, or a GPS system that clearly shows you how to travel from point A to point B. You can even customize your route to avoid freeways or tolls for example. When motorists prepare for their travels, they become more confident drivers.

In the event your current health condition or medications prevent you from driving safely, it’s best to have an alternative option when it comes to your transportation needs. Ask a friend or family member for a ride, use public transportation, or take advantage of car ride services such as GoGoGrandparent, which is a concierge service that connects seniors with on-demand ride services like Lyft and Uber.

To many, seniors included, driving symbolizes freedom. With the proper safeguards in place, seniors can continue to indulge in this freedom for years to come. Therefore, assessing your health and medications with your doctor, seeing your optometrist every year, researching your driving trips prior to turning the key, and evaluating other transportation options are pivotal when it comes to ensuring your safety on the road as well as the safety of others.

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