Baby You Can Drive Your Car!

When we were growing up, it seemed that “old people” were all terrible drivers. Of course, we thought that “old” meant anyone over fifty!

However, there are certainly legitimate concerns about truly “older” drivers. Research on age-related driving concerns has shown that at around the age of 65, drivers face an increased risk of being involved in a vehicle crash. After the age of 75, the risk of driver fatality increases sharply because older drivers are more vulnerable to both crash-related injury and death. Three behavioral factors in particular may contribute to these statistics: poor judgment in making left-hand turns; drifting within the traffic lane; and decreased ability to change behavior in response to an unexpected or rapidly changing situation.

Older drivers need to be aware that medications can significantly impair their driving by making them drowsy or distracted. Physicians and pharmacists should be consulted before starting new medications, to see if the drug can affect the ability to drive. Since side effects are often worse for the first few days of a new medication, people should avoid driving until they know exactly how a new drug affects them. If any medication causes sleepiness or disorientation, someone else should do the driving.

Eyes change with age. They lose the ability to focus quickly. Peripheral vision narrows and the retina becomes less sensitive to light. Physical activity is needed to keep a person strong and flexible for those quick reactions needed while driving. To be a safe driver, paying attention to road conditions and your own body changes are essential.

A person’s chronological age is not an absolute predictor of driving ability, but its impact should not be denied. Ultimately, however, what counts on the road is performance.  So be a realist.  Remember that you are putting not only yourself in jeopardy on the road if you are not up to it, but you are also putting others at risk as well.


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