5 Signs for Older Drivers That It’s Time to Stop Driving
Many Americans spend a substantial amount of time behind the wheel. Driving a vehicle plays a significant part in everyday living. Today one in six American drivers are 65 years old or older, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, senior drivers are more likely to be involved in a car accident than younger generations. As you age, you do not necessarily need to stop getting behind the wheel. However, certain signs may indicate it’s time to hang up the keys. Here are five signs for older drivers that it’s time to stop driving.
1. Limited mobility
As people get older, they often lose mobility and range of motion. These limitations could interfere with driving a motor vehicle. Many people may not be aware that driving is a physical activity. If you have limited mobility, you may not be able to check your blind spots, stay in your lane, or use your turn signal in time.
Strength and coordination are a necessity when driving because you are using your hands and feet. Minor physical limitations can interfere with your ability to control a steering wheel, shift gears, accelerate the gas pedal, and most importantly, use the brakes in time.
2. Impaired senses
Your senses are crucial when getting behind the wheel. If you struggle to see or hear, you will not only put yourself at risk of injury but other drivers, as well.
Many seniors experience a decline in their vision when they age. When driving, you must be able to see stop signs, hazard signs, and the cars, pedestrians, and cyclists around you. A doctor can help determine whether your vision is impacting your ability to safely drive a car.
Hearing is a vital to safe driving, and it also decreases with age. There are many sounds on the streets, such as car honks, railroad crossings, and emergency vehicles. For example, if an emergency vehicle is driving behind you and you don’t see or hear their lights and sirens, you will not know that you need to get out of the way.
3. Experience a cognitive decline
Cognitive declines are commonly found among the elderly. According to the Memory and Aging Center, research has shown age-related changes in brain structure include a decrease in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that retains memory), as well as changes in your frontal and temporal lobes.
These brain changes may interfere with multi-tasking, attention-span, and retaining information. Because driving is a thinking task, a cognitive decline can interfere with the way you drive. Even mild cognitive decline can slow reflexes and response time.
4. Severe health conditions
Some health conditions, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease, can affect your ability to drive. Depending on the severity of your health condition, it may prevent you from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Many health conditions require prescription medications. Although prescription drugs affect people differently, many medications have side effects that can affect your ability to drive. These can include blurred vision, fainting, slowed reaction time, and drowsiness.
You shouldn’t drive if you take medication with any of these side effects.
5. Easily distracted
Technology has become a problem for drivers of all ages. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. With this statistic, it is more important than ever for you not to be distracted while driving.
According to The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, senior drivers are at higher risk of being distracted by technology use while driving compared to younger generations. When seniors perform simple tasks, such as turning the radio, drivers ages 55 through 75 take their eyes off the road for an average of eight seconds longer than someone younger.
Senior drivers who experience cognitive decline are susceptible to being distracted on the road. Cognitive decline reduces the driver’s ability to hold their attention between tasks while driving, which has statistically led to many car crashes.
Driver safety is critical every time you get behind the wheel. If you begin to notice or have any of these five signs, it may be time to pass your car keys off to someone else and become the passenger.