Driving Can Present Some Challenges for Older Adults
Similar to new teen drivers, older adult drivers are likely to feel more independent with a driver’s license and access to a vehicle. As we age, however, it is important to realize that mental reaction, situational awareness, vision and motor controls may not be as sharp as they once were. Driving in heavy traffic or work zones, and during inclement weather or at night may become more challenging for the older driver.
More than 8,000 older adults were killed in traffic incidents in 2017. Avoiding distracted driving and understanding physical limitations, as well as the effects of any prescription medication that may cause impairment, is important.
Older adults should plan ahead before driving trips and, if necessary, consider alternative transportation, such as family and friends, ride sharing, public transportation or community-provided transportation services. Staying physically active may also help older drivers stay safe on the road, similar to the way it may help in preventing older adult falls.
Physicians can be a resource in helping older adults decide when it is time to start curtailing driving activities, but in many cases, family members are the first they turn to. The perceived loss of independence may be difficult for older drivers to accept. Explaining new vehicle safety technology can provide reassurance and may even keep them driving safer, longer.