Today, there are more than 33 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older, and that number is expected to continue to increase in the next 20 years. According to the latest report from the Department of Transportation, an average of 500 older adults are injured every day in vehicle collisions. This number is projected to increase as more older drivers stay on the road.
Thus, it is important that older drivers are as safe as they can possibly be as age-related changes to their vision, hearing, flexibility and strength may make the complex skill of driving increasingly difficult. These changes are unique to each individual, however, and aging does not necessarily mean one has to stop driving altogether.
The Burke Rehabilitation Center’s Driver Evaluation Program offers these tips for staying on the road longer, safely.
- Get regular eye exams, hearing exams and physical check-ups.
- Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
- Drive during daylight and off-peak hours, and in good weather.
- Plan your route before you drive and find the safest routes—familiar roads, shortest route. You may also consider making three right turns rather than a more risky left turn at an intersection.
- Take a driving refresher course. This not only helps fine-tune your skills, it will also catch you up with the newest laws and driving strategies.
Being aware of signs that your driving may not be as safe as you would like is another way to be safe through prevention. Some potential warning signs include:
- New dents, dings or scratches on your car.
- Observations by others about unsafe driving.
- Getting two or more traffic tickets, warnings, collisions or near misses in the last two years.
- Getting lost on familiar streets.
If you are ever unsure about your driving, getting a driving evaluation may help.
Turn to a Professional
Aging or suffering a medical incident such as a stroke or having a chronic health issue like multiple sclerosis doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop driving. The key is to find out about your individual ability to drive safely. Here are eight reasons to consider a driving evaluation from a professional occupational therapist trained at assessing drivers.
- You feel your driving skills are fine. You may appreciate your opinion being seconded by a professional.
- People have suggested you stop driving. If you don’t agree, you could benefit from getting a second opinion.
- You are unsure about your driving ability. It may benefit you to know whether changes to your vision, reaction time or flexibility may affect your driving.
- You have one or more medical conditions. Physical or mental limitations may prohibit you from driving. An evaluation will let you know if you are fit to drive and may provide you with a plan for adjustments that will enable you to drive safely.
- You’ve had a vision change that affected your peripheral vision and depth perception.
- You had stopped driving and want to resume. If you’ve had an illness such as a stroke, an evaluation could point out how it has affected your driving skills, if at all, and show you strategies, therapies or special equipment that could help you drive safely again.
- You have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease but are in the early stages. A comprehensive evaluation can help determine if you can still drive safely and help you make plans for the future when you will no longer be able to drive.
Almost anyone can benefit from a comprehensive driving evaluation. The evaluation is an extremely thorough process that will give you a clear picture of your driving ability and potential for improvement.
This story has also been covered in the White Plains Patch.