Keeping Seniors Safe Behind the Wheel
The first week of December is traditionally Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. Around 18% of all traffic fatalities yearly involve people over the age of 65. This statistic makes it vitally important for seniors and caregivers to learn about safety for seniors on the road. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
Since seniors should be the most experienced drivers behind the wheel, what is different that makes safety a higher concern? Many seniors find it hard to accept that their driving might concern others as they don’t perceive themselves as “bad drivers”. It is important to stress to them that they are not, in fact, a “bad driver”. Age-related changes can affect how they drive though. Some of these can include:
- Limited vision/hearing
- Decreased reaction time, judgement, or attention due to heath conditions
- Poor posture
- Weakness when operating a steering wheel, brakes, etc.
- Memory loss that can lead to confusion or getting lost
- Medications that impair judgement/ reaction times
- Exacerbation of all of the above when night driving is taken into account (AARP)
Starting the Conversation
Driving habits and changes can be a very sensitive topic to broach with a senior loved one. Decreased driving ability will mean a decrease in independence for a senior. It is very hard for loved ones to evaluate if their family member might need to have driving privileges monitored/ lessened/ or taken away. Here are some helpful questions to ask in order to start the conversation into road safety.
- Have you noticed any scratches/dents on your car recently?
- Have you experienced anything frightening on the road lately?
- Do any of your medications affect how you feel when driving or make you tired?
- Are there any signs on your usual route that have been hard to spot or read?
- What’s the best route to get between (give senior two points they often travel or are familiar with)?
- Would it be helpful to you if you didn’t have to drive all the time? (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
CarFit is a national program that offers free senior driver safety checks. It is staffed by qualified volunteers that take 20 minutes to assess seniors’ vehicles, driving habits, and make recommendations to improve safety. You can find CarFit events online at CarFit.
There are alternatives for transportation if a senior can no longer safely remain behind the wheel. Public, private, and non-profit providers offer transportation, discounts, and/or free rides to seniors. Your local Area Agency on Aging or ADRC can help you with a listing. If a senior is struggling with not being able to drive as much as they used to, encourage them to try these affordable options. Safe @ Home is happy to help with transportation to and from appointments, doctor visits, outings, events, stores, and more. Call us today so we can help your senior remain safe both at home and out in the community.