How to Objectively Evaluate a Senior's Fitness for Driving
Driving is closely linked with independence. Most of us take for granted the ability to hop in our car and head out to run errands or enjoy a road trip. But as we grow older, our ability to stay safe behind the wheel of a car can be compromised.
Vision changes caused by aging can make it tougher to see at night. Hearing loss can muffle sounds and cause an older driver to react too slowly to road hazards. Decreased flexibility might cause pain when looking over the shoulder to merge in traffic.
That’s why the American Occupational Therapy Association sponsors Older Driver Safety Awareness Week every year during the second week of December. It gives advocates in aging services, like those at Sunrise Senior Living, an opportunity to shine light on road safety for older adults.
Older Driver Safety Concerns
Here are a few suggestions to make sure an older adult is safe behind the wheel of a car.
Visit the eye doctor on a regular basis
Experts at the AAA Foundation tell us that as much as 85 percent of driving decisions involve our eyes. And it’s a fact of life that our visual abilities decline as we grow older. Aging eyes are more sensitive to glare, which is why seniors often have a tough time driving at night. The loss of depth perception commonly caused by aging makes it difficult for older drivers to judge their distance from other cars, pedestrians, bikers, and other objects along the road.
Taking steps like keeping the windshield, mirrors, and headlights clean and turning up the brightness setting on the vehicle’s instrument panel can help. But it’s also crucial to see the eye doctor on a routine basis. They can help identify any vision issues and intervene early.
Choosing the right vehicle can also make a big difference when it comes to senior driver safety. While they might want to hang onto an older vehicle because it has low mileage, new cars offer seniors important safety features. Easy-to-pull seatbelts, electric seat adjustments, and improved air bags are just a few.
It’s also important to remind older drivers not to sit too close to the steering wheel. In the event an accident causes the air bags to deploy, an older driver seated too close can be seriously injured. Experts from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration say a senior’s chest should be at least 10 inches from the steering wheel. If they can’t reach the gas pedal, consider adding a pedal extender to their vehicle.
Monitor medication side effects
Another overlooked issue that puts seniors at risk when driving is medication. Some medications slow reaction time, while others are known for causing drowsiness or dizziness. These can all be hazardous for drivers.
Take time to review each of your older loved one’s medications to identify potential risks. If you find any that concern you, talk to their physician about alternative options.
Online Driving Tests for Seniors
If you are looking for objective ways to evaluate or improve an older driver’s skills and abilities, here are two tools you might find useful:
Transportation Services at Sunrise Senior Living
If you’ve noticed change in a senior’s driving skills, Older Driver Safety Awareness Week gives you an ideal opportunity to discuss your concerns.
If your concerns about a senior’s safety extend beyond driving, a senior living community might be a solution to consider. From transportation services to a wide variety of life enrichment activities, Sunrise communities help older adults live their best life. Call us today to book a tour and learn more.