America’s senior citizens are often stereotyped to be bad (sometimes unsafe) drivers. But the truth is that simply growing older does not impair a person’s ability to be safe behind the wheel by default. Many healthy seniors remain skilled drivers and are as adept and alert as anybody, but others struggle with the early signs of health conditions that can affect driving, and would like to do what they can to keep driving and be safe. If physical or cognitive health conditions have progressed to a point where focus and reflexes are hindered even during daily activities not behind the wheel, then driving is not advised.
How Age Affects Driving Competence
Dementia: Cognitive diseases, like Alzheimer’s can hinder an elder’s memory, critical thinking, and problem solving skills needed for minding the road.
Vision and Hearing Impairment: Aging may naturally dull a driver’s sense of sight and hearing. Aged eyes may be more sensitive to sunlight in the windshield or headlights at night. It is important for senior drivers to routinely schedule vision and hearing tests to make sure they are safe to drive.
Arthritis and Weak Joints: Conditions like arthritis can hinder hand dexterity required for turning steering wheels or shifting gears. When joints are weak, actions like buckling a seatbelt or pushing the brakes may be difficult which can be unsafe for drivers.
Reflexes: Sometimes it’s not you who mess up, but other drivers around you. Adept reflexes are crucial to reacting to dynamic developments on the road. Reflexes can be tested by doctors during checkups and physicals to guarantee senior safety.
Over-cautiousness: Sometimes seniors become self-conscious about their difficulty focusing on what’s going on, and may be too safe by going dangerously slow to prevent speeding or car crashes, but actually put other drivers in danger who try to maneuver around them.
Tips for Senior Drivers to Keep License
- It’s wise for very aged seniors who notice the warning signs to stick to familiar destinations with short distances and avoid any anxiety or possibility of getting lost.
- Driving while stressed or tired can lead to making mistakes on the road, which can lead to a revoked license. Only drive when you feel completely ready.
- Keep track of how medications may impact driving skills.
- Always make sure to check your mirrors constantly, especially when changing lanes.
- Give other drivers space by not driving too close behind.