Factors to Consider for Aging Drivers

Posted by Mike McQuinn on July 16, 2014 | no comments

Img from Avin.ca

Image from Avin.ca

There are many factors to consider when you are wondering if you should still be driving.  Actually if you are wondering if you should still be driving, you might want to consider finding alternatives for transportation. As we age, unfortunately, our bodies and organs start to decline in operation.  Every driver should be very alert to their surroundings as they drive, but an aged person should be even more aware and alert, to allow for slower reaction times due to the declines in our motor skills. There are excersises to help maintain these motor skills as best they can be, but naturally someday we will all need to let go of the wheel.

What are the signs that we should probably should shorten our driving time or in some cases, stop driving altogether?

Eyes

So often our eyes get more or less sensitive to the light.  Some people their eyes will get more sensitive which would require stronger sunglasses in the day, while others may have less sensitivity to the dark, where their pupils are not working correctly for them to see in the dark.  We also need to look at our eyeglass prescriptions, so often if we need glasses, we do not notice when the prescription is just not strong enough for us or has changed and we need new glasses.  It is very important for us to have our eyes checked at least once a year to make sure we are seeing properly and have the correct glasses for driving.  If you are finding it harder and harder to see at night, perhaps it is time to stop driving in the dark.  Maybe find someone who can drive you or plan all your activities during the day.

Hearing

Another very common degenerating item as we grow older.  Often we do not notice when our hearing is beginning to deteriorate, but we can be assured others do.  If  you are told that you may want to have your hearing checked repeatedly, you may want to go do that.  Vanity has no role in driving, how good you look with no hearing aides does not mean anything to that ambulance that is trying to get to a wounded or ill patient, or the fire truck that is trying to get to a raging fire.  If vanity is the reason you have not had your hearing checked, be assured that in today’s medicines, there are hearing aides that you cannot see in the ear and no one will know that you are wearing it at all.  And yet, you may go have your hearing checked to find out it is something minor that is preventing you from having perfect hearing, you may not need a hearing aide at all, sure would be nice to know tho, wouldn’t it.

Cognitive Reaction Time

As we all age, with some of us, it takes longer to process things in our minds.  Often this is caused by maybe not getting as much sleep as we did when we were younger causing drowsiness when we are awake.  Sometimes it could be something more severe as the oncoming of Dementia or Alzheimer.  Whether it is something severe or something as simple as getting older our stimuli weakens to process things, we should be very aware of the question, should I be driving.  Anyone who has the oncoming of Dementia  or Alzheimer, should absolutely NOT be driving.

Medications

Many medications can interfere with safe driving by slowing reaction time, causing drowsiness and causing confusion, making driving even more dangerous for everyone on the road. By the age of 85, a senior is more likely to be involved in a car accident than a teenage driver is.  Often,  seniors who are involved in car crashes are far more likely to die than a younger person involved in the same crash.  It is very important to pay close attention to how you feel when you take your medications or what others say about your reactions after you take your medications.  Sometimes this can be fixed by simply asking the doctor for a different prescription.  Unfortunately, sometimes this cannot be fixed if you absolutely need the exact medication you are on.  If this is the case, either change the times you take your medications (if you need to take it once a day, maybe take it at night instead of in the morning) or if there is no possibility of changing the times, maybe you should find someone else to drive you.

Other Potential Concerns

There are many other reasons to stop driving or maybe limit your driving, these could be, heart problems, breathing problems, moving problems (legs or arms do not work the way they should), and many more, these problems all cause us to have very slow reaction times, or maybe a greater chance of an attack of some kind behind the wheel.

Self Evaluation

The important thing to remember, is to be honest with yourself, listen to what others say(especially family members) and pay attention, be aware of your deficiencies, we all have them, there is nothing to be ashamed of with them, it is all a part of life.  You know yourself better than anyone else could possibly know you, search your soul and ask yourself, should I be driving, if that answer is either I don’t know, or maybe not, then by all means, get someone else to drive you and put your keys down.  Having your grandchild drive may make you a little nervous, but you will get over it and be ok with it in time, but causing an accident where you hurt someone else’s child or grandchild would be devastating to live with. Some seniors are ok to drive forever, while others need to give it up.  Be responsible and know when its time to give it up.

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