Safe Driving Tips for Older Adults

By Alexis Abramson, PhD
Originally Posted On July 15, 2013

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Alexis Abramson, Ph.D. is the leading industry expert for those over 50. her commitment to baby boomers and mature adults has been featured in many national publications, including TIME, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and People.

Dr. Abramson is an Emmy and Gracie award-winning journalist who has appeared frequently as an on-air expert gerontologist for NBC’s Today show, CNN, CBS, MSNBC and numerous other media outlets.

Safe driving is an important issue for everyone – especially seniors!  Although older drivers are at a higher risk of becoming involved in an automobile accident than younger drivers, not everyone is an “accident waiting to happen” – and in fact many seniors are better drivers than today’s young’ens. We all age at different rates and with different needs. This is something we need to keep in mind because periodically one must check for those symptoms and outside causes that may impact ones ability to drive safely.

Seniors are more likely to receive traffic citations when it comes to small things such as failing to yield, turning improperly and running stop signs. These are all an indication of decreased driving ability. Automotive collisions become a lot more deadly after a driver has reached the age of 70. The good thing is that in today’s world there is plenty of information to help better accommodate and consequently avoid this problem.

If you know an older driver who is experiencing trouble on the road or feel you might be getting to that point, it is important to carefully monitor the situation. The US. has created a culture where you must drive, and we embrace it. We use it to get our basic necessities, participate in social events and it is the cornerstone of American independence. Most people would drive from their bed to the fridge if they could!!!

Many older adults have vision issues which the DMV marks as a “restriction” on their licenses. Now we must bear in mind that the DMV does not restrict people because they are reaching a certain age, but rather, because some of their skills or senses might be slowing down to a troublesome rate. Restricted licenses can also result from someone calling the DMV and reporting an unsafe driver. Anyone can do this  – it can be a concerned citizen, a police officer, your physician or even a family member. Vision problems unfortunately are not the only concern. Alzheimer’s and dementia are two of the diseases that concern most people because the afflicted will most likely not be readily aware (or willing to admit) their own impairments.

The AAA online senior drivers quiz illuminates common risk factors and instructs readers as to how to avoid potentially dangerous driving habits or behaviors.  AARP also has a resource that provides a lot of answers and suggestions for people concerned with this issue. Here are some warning signs AARP considers to be the most important indicators as to when someone should begin to limit driving or stop driving all together….

  • Feeling uncomfortable and nervous or fearful while driving
  • Dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs etc.
  • Difficulty staying in the lane of travel
  • Getting lost
  • Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs and pavement markings
  • Slower response to unexpected situations
  • Medical conditions or medications that may be affecting the ability to handle the car safely
  • Frequent “close calls” (i.e. almost crashing)
  • Trouble judging gaps in traffics at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps
  • Other drivers honking at you and instances when you are angry at other drivers
  • Friends or relatives not wanting to drive with you
  • Difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight ahead
  • Easily distracted or having a hard time concentrating while driving
  • Having difficulty turning around to check over your shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
  • Frequent traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers in the last year or two

If some of these signs seem to be a concern for you or a loved one you might want to consider consulting a doctor or a professional in the field. Stay safe. Care for your safety and others.

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Disclaimer:  Content and suggestions provided within should not be construed as a formal recommendation and AJA Associates, LLC makes no representations, endorsements or warranties relating to the accuracy, use or completeness of the information.