The elderly face unique challenges when it comes to driving. Many issues and limitations emerge in old age that can make driving more difficult for the elderly. In this post, I will discuss some of the challenges that the elderly face when driving, as well as some safety tips to keep elderly drivers safe.
Issues That Could Lead to Unsafe Driving in the Elderly
Here are a few common issues that the elderly might face that could reduce their ability to drive safely:
- Poor eyesight. As we age, our eyes tend to become weaker. In addition, eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and more can create vision problems in the elderly. An elderly person might not be able to see far distances, or they may have issues with depth perception. Driving in the dark can be especially difficult for those who have developed eye issues. If you or an elderly loved one face this issue, make sure to see an eye doctor every year to make sure that your eyes are not a driving hindrance. Also make sure to always wear prescribed glasses or contact lenses while driving. If you have trouble seeing in the dark, consider not driving at night.
- Arthritis, or stiff muscles/joints. An unfortunate reality for many people is experiencing weakening muscles and stiffening joints as they age. These issues could make it difficult to grip the steering wheel, turn the steering wheel, and press the gas and brake pedals. If you suffer from arthritis or stiffening joints, and it is making driving difficult for you, consider building your strength. You can do this through physical therapy or by weightlifting in a gym.
- Hearing difficulties. Hearing loss can occur for many people as they age. This can make it more difficult for a person to hear sirens, horns, and other important sounds while driving. Failure to hear these noises could result in an accident. You can reduce this issue when driving by regularly seeing a doctor and having your hearing checked. If you need to wear a hearing aid, make sure that you are always wearing it while you are driving.
- Slower reflexes and reaction time. Attention span and reaction time can suffer as a person gets older. This can make it more difficult for an elderly driver to remember where they are going or how to get there. It can also mean that they can’t brake fast enough in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, this could result in an accident. If you find that your reaction time and reflexes are slowing down, when you drive make sure to leave ample space between you and other cars. If you do have to brake suddenly, you will have more time to stop before hitting the car in front of you. You might also consider avoiding the highway, or driving in the right-hand lane on the highway. Avoiding busy times when traffic is heaving is also a good idea.
Medications and Driving
Another issue that the elderly can face when it comes to safe driving is medication. Some medications can impair judgement, impact motor skills, cause drowsiness, and create other problems that make it difficult for people to drive safely. If you are on any medications, make sure that you understand how they will affect your body. Also make sure that it is safe to drive on these medications. Finally, read your labels to make sure that you can drink alcohol on your medication. If you cannot, do not drink alcohol, take your medications, and drive. This could result in an accident or a DUI.
For assistance with a motor vehicle violation, please contact my office.