American roads can be unfriendly places, so it’s hardly surprising that many adult children worry about how their parents are faring behind the wheel. Ultimately, age alone is no reason to assume someone isn’t a capable driver. Instead, if you’re wondering if someone you love should still be in the driver’s seat, learn about the factors that can genuinely interfere with a senior’s driving ability. You might also find it helpful to learn how to encourage safe driving for seniors.
Safe Driving for Seniors
Mile for mile, teens aged 16 and 17 are the most likely to be involved in a car crash. In fact, Consumer Reports found that their crash rate is nine times that of middle-aged adults. In comparison, drivers over the age of 80 are involved in roughly five times as many fatal crashes as their middle-aged peers. This means that teens are nearly twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as seniors. However, seniors’ greater frailty can leave them more vulnerable if a road accident does occur.
Factors That Can Interfere with a Senior’s Ability to Drive Safely
Many people continue to drive safely even after they’ve celebrate their 80th or 90th birthday, so age alone is clearly not an accurate indicator of declining driving capabilities. However, there are certain factors that can interfere with a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely:
- Vision: Poor vision can make it difficult to safely navigate the road. It is important that all drivers have regular checkups with an eye doctor to help identify vision problems or limitations and pinpoint solutions.
- Physicality: It’s not uncommon for people to shrink with age. If a senior has gotten smaller, it may be necessary to adjust the angle or positioning of the seat and mirrors. Physical limitations can also present challenges when driving. Operating a vehicle requires coordination, dexterity, and strength in both the upper and lower extremities. Inactivity can result in a loss of these qualities, so it is important to stay active in your senior years.
- Disease: Some health conditions have the potential to interfere with a person’s mental and physical capabilities, which may increase the risk of danger when they’re on the road. Ideally, the senior’s physician should sound the alarm about the issue, but with the senior’s permission, concerned loved ones may seek peace of mind by instigating the discussion.
- Medications: Side effects of medications can slow reaction times, cause drowsiness, or otherwise compromise a person’s ability to drive safely. When multiple prescriptions are taken, the chance for a serious negative reaction increases. Having a doctor or pharmacist review a senior’s prescriptions can help prevent this problem.
How to Gauge a Senior’s Driving Skills
If concerns arise, there are ways that a senior’s loved ones can gauge their driving skills. Simply taking an observant walk around the vehicle can be informative. If dents, scrapes, or other signs of damage are evident, it may indicate that the senior is experiencing difficulty behind the wheel, especially if they don’t know how the damage occurred. Another option involves riding along with the senior when they are behind the wheel. During the trip, watch for signs of confusion, physical difficulties, susceptibility to glare, or issues with controlling the vehicle. Don’t nag, but do note how turns are handled, the driving speed, and how well the senior maintains the proper position in their lane.
Encouraging Safe Driving for Seniors
What can you do to encourage safe driving for seniors? First, approach your loved one as an ally, seek solutions together, and let them know that they can always come to you for help. Second, encourage your loved one to be physically active so that he or she can build or retain the physical qualities needed to drive safely. Finally, suggest that your loved one take a course for mature drivers. Participating in this type of course might even earn the senior a discount on their auto insurance.
There’s no age limit for safe driving, and many seniors enjoy the independence offered by driving. However, it’s important to continually reassess a person’s driving ability and encourage safe habits to foster good decisions and peace of mind.
If you’re looking for a new home where you can enjoy your sunset years, check out The Shores of Lake Phalen in Maplewood, Minnesota. Surrounded by a gorgeous wooded setting between two lakes, our residence offers the community and accessibility of apartment-style housing with the atmosphere and elegance of a resort. Thanks to the team of dedicated staff members, residents enjoy a care-free lifestyle without the common worries of running a household. We offer numerous health and safety amenities, fun events and activities, a friendly and accommodating staff, and so much more. Schedule a tour of the community to explore our spacious apartments, elegant dining room, and more. We look forward to hearing from you!