One of the hardest things to do is to have a conversation with an older loved one about driving.
For many of our older adults, driving provides a sense of independence and they don't want to give it up. However, there is not a better time to begin having a healthy discussion than Older Driver Safety Awareness Week that runs December 7th-11th. Many years ago, The American Occupational Therapy Association brought Older Driver Safety to the forefront with this national campaign knowing how important it is to protect older drivers. With this high profile event, next week is the perfect time to begin talking driver safety with our older family members and friends.
Most people tend to want to talk about this issue after an accident, although to make a significant impact, having proactive discussions before an emergency is best. There is not a better way to learn about potential challenges that may exist than by taking a drive with your older pal or loved one. During the drive, take time to assess and discuss these 5 topics:
Vision Changes- As we get older our vision seems to diminish with age and it can affect driving. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, vision is essential for driving. Good vision helps identify road hazards, read road signs, and see the instrument panel on the dashboard. Awareness of vision changes can help everyone remain safe on the road.
Hearing- We know good eyesight is essential for driving, although hearing is a close second. According to the National Institute of Health, one-third of those over age 65 have age-related hearing loss. AAA reports poor hearing can be dangerous when in traffic. The inability to hear the high-pitched tones from sirens in emergency vehicles, railroad warnings, and horns can put the driver in harm's way.
Slower Reaction- As we age, our reaction is not quite what it used to be. A Michigan study suggests as we age, our brain connections break down, slowing up physical response times. There are several ways to help improve reaction time. Moderate exercise like walking, riding a stationary bike, tai chi, and yoga are a few that can help. Additionally, eating a healthy diet always pays dividends.
Medications- While most medications will not impair safe driving, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicate some medications can make you drowsy, have blurred vision, slow reaction times, and may cause fainting. The FDA advises to learn how your medications may affect your ability to drive safely.
Changing Weather- Hazardous conditions like rain, snow, sleet, and fog can be especially dangerous for older drivers. It is a good idea to consider public transportation or ride-sharing like UBER when weather conditions turn bad.
Even if you do everything possible to practice safe driving, accidents can happen. If you or a loved one happen to be involved in an automobile accident, Nationwide recommends to follow these tips:
- Remain calm- It is much easier to locate driver information and talk with the police and witnesses at the scene when calm. Check on those inside the vehicle to make sure they are ok. Never get into an argument with the other driver.
- Call 911 or your local police- They will respond immediately and if there is an injury, medical professionals will be dispatched to the scene.
- Stay at the scene- Always remain at the scene. If you leave the scene, you may face legal consequences and fines.
- Stay in your car- If your accident happens to be along a busy highway, stay inside your vehicle for safety reasons until police or an ambulance arrives. It is dangerous to get outside the vehicle along busy roads. Once the officers arrive, you can get the names and numbers of potential witnesses.
- Contact your insurance provider- Call your provider to report the claim who will give you important information to get your car repaired.
You can learn more about AOTA's Older Diver Safety Awareness Week by accessing their website here. In the meantime, drive safely!