As active adults, the act of driving a car is a major part of our daily lives. From the time we are teenagers well into our later years, we drive to and from school, work and around town almost every day. Most of us take driving for granted until, one day, we are no longer able to safely drive a car.
One of the unfortunate facts of life is that driving becomes more dangerous as we enter our later years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the occurrence rate of fatal automobile crashes begins to increase at age 75, and it increases significantly after age 80. This is due largely to older adults being more susceptible to injury and medical complications as a result of a car accident.
There comes a time for all of us to think about changing our driving habits in the name of safety. It is important to understand the risks associated with driving at an advanced age so you can identify early warning signs that it may be time to make changes to your lifestyle.
How aging affects driving
As we age, certain physical changes can affect our ability to safely drive a car. Our vision, reflexes and hearing can decrease or become impaired over time. Also, certain age-related medical conditions, such as arthritis or Parkinson’s Disease, can become more severe. Driving functions that were once simple, such as turning your head to look both ways or listening for horns or emergency sirens, can become a challenge.
In addition to changes that make driving more challenging, other physical changes can make car accidents more dangerous. As we age, our muscles can weaken and our bones can become more fragile, making severe injury more likely. Our ability to recover from traumatic injury may also be diminished.
Be proactive in driving safely
When it comes to driving ability, there is no one-size-fits-all formula. While one person’s ability to drive may diminish in his early 60s, another person may continue to drive at a high level well into his 80s. Aging affects everyone differently.
As you grow older, you should begin to regularly assess your ability to drive. This includes taking proactive steps to ensure that you are driving safely, including:
- Have a vision exam every year
- Get your hearing tested every 3 years after age 50
- Talk to your doctor to ensure that none of your medications interfere with your senses or reflexes
- Wear your glasses or corrective lenses as directed
- Try to avoid driving at night or during rush hour
- Give yourself extra space between you and the car in front of you
Maintaining independence after driving
Even if you have to reduce your driving, or give it up altogether, it does not mean the end of your independence. Finding new methods of transportation can provide health and social benefits, as well as a new change of pace to life.
Most major cities have established public transportation that is both affordable and convenient. In Orlando, SunRail and LYNX offer reliable transportation throughout the city and surrounding areas. In addition to public transportation, your family and friends can also help you get around.
Some service providers may even offer complimentary transportation. At MetroHealth, we provide free transportation to and from appointments for Medicare Advantage patients as part of our Concierge Services.
Even if you have driven your entire life and have a good driving record, realizing that age can have an effect on driving is important. Talk to your family and your doctor if you have concerns about driving, and remember that proper planning can help you prepare for life after driving.