Aging Causes Changes in Vision, Hearing, Reaction Time
We all would like to stay young, but there’s no getting around the aging process. And for some people, as they age, their ability to drive safely decreases, which can lead to accidents. One day, we are all going to have to face that moment when it’s time to hand over the car keys and rely on others for transportation. It is a hard decision, but for some seniors, it’s one that has to be made to keep themselves and others safe on the road.
Nearly 20 percent of fatal car accidents involve senior drivers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), notes that in 2016, there were more than 49 million people in the United States who were 65 and older. And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the senior population is expected to more than double to 80 million people between now and 2050, with the largest increase in the senior population occurring from now until 2030.
Why does this matter when it comes to traffic safety? Well, NHTSA recently posted a review of 2016 statistics, the latest report available, involving senior drivers. During that year, nearly 18 percent of all traffic fatalities involved a driver 65 or older. That percentage translates into more than 6,700 deaths and a three percent increase from the previous year.
Colorado had a total of 880 auto accident fatalities in 2016 with nearly 15 percent of those fatalities involving a senior driver. That’s why it’s important for families who have senior drivers to make sure their loved one is truly capable of handling a vehicle. If there is any doubt, you need to start a discussion on the possibility of limiting driving or taking the car keys away completely.
Assessing the Safety Skills of Older Drivers
When it comes to senior drivers, there are specific issues that should be addressed to make sure they are in the best condition possible to safely handle a vehicle. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has an educational website that fully explores the changes that occur as we age and what those changes mean when it comes to driving safely. There is a self-rating quiz for seniors to take to evaluate driving habits and focus on issues that could become a serious problem when it comes to safety, such as realizing you are having difficulty when trying to merge into traffic or if you find your reaction time is slowing.
There are also other signs that the time may be coming for a senior to forgo driving altogether. As noted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), driving is a complicated task and can become even more difficult as we age. To drive safely, you must always be alert because you just never know what other drivers are going to do. However, as we age and slow down, so do our senses, and that can be an issue when driving. For instance:
- Your eyesight can change, which makes it harder to see things clearly even if wearing glasses.
- Hearing can decrease, which makes it harder to hear if someone is honking at you or if an emergency vehicle is nearby.
- Reaction time slows, and that can interfere with how quickly you respond to a traffic situation, such as a car suddenly stopping in front of you or veering into your lane.
- And, one thing some people don’t think about is medication and how it impacts you. Does it make you drowsy or lightheaded? Even some over-the-counter medications can dramatically impact your ability to drive safely.
So, if you are a senior experiencing some difficulties with driving, you may need to consider giving up the car keys. Luckily today, with Uber, Lyft, and other ride-share options, there are alternatives to driving. For seniors today, giving up the keys doesn’t mean giving up your freedom.