Most of us place great importance on our ability to drive, and justifiably so. For many, especially those who live in areas where public transportation is limited, this ability is what enables them to meet many day to day needs such as purchasing household supplies, getting to and from appointments, and keeping social engagements. Loss of the ability to drive can make life complicated and can also lead to increased isolation. Understandably, the decision to stop driving is a transition that most senior drivers would like to put off as long as possible, and, according to one survey, most children would rather talk to their parents about such things as selling their homes and even making their funeral arrangements than about giving up driving.
Thankfully, there is no set age at which driving automatically becomes unsafe. As a matter of fact, many seniors continue driving safely well into their 80’s and even their 90’s. However, if you are a senior driver or if you are concerned about the safety of senior friends and family, it is important to be realistic. A knowledge of risk factors associated with aging as well as signs that indicate that driving is no longer safe is critical in order to make informed decisions that are in the best interests of everyone involved.
4 Risk Factors
The process of aging will naturally have an effect on driving ability. The following factors do not automatically signal that someone should give up driving, but it is important to be aware of them so that needed precautions can be taken.
- Health Conditions. Both physical and mental conditions can have a negative effect on driving ability. Physical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or arthritis may slow reaction time or make it more difficult to turn around when parking or changing lanes. Conditions that affect cognitive ability like Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia also need to be taken into consideration.
- Loss of Hearing. Our sense of hearing is what alerts us to horns, sirens, screeching tires, and other signs that we need to be especially alert. Since many times hearing diminishes gradually, it is easy to have a problem in this area and not even be aware of it.
- Loss of Vision. In order to drive safely we need to be able to clearly the speedometer, road signs, pedestrians or animals that may cross in front of us – and so much more. As we age, less light is allowed in to the retina, which affects vision. Older people are also more prone to eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma. Many of these conditions make driving at night especially difficult. It is important to schedule regular eye exams in order to be aware of any problems that need to be addressed.
- Drugs and Drug Interactions. Even otherwise healthy and active adults can become unsafe drivers if they take certain medications. Many medications, including prescription, over-the-counter, and some herbal remedies, can cause side effects, like drowsiness, blurred vision, and confusion that could make driving dangerous. It is vital to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects as well as interactions of multiple medications. Another factor to be aware of is that many medications increase the effect of alcohol, making it unsafe to be behind the wheel after just one drink.
In many cases, it is possible to compensate for these risk factors and continue driving safely – for instance, you could limit driving to daylight hours. However there are some definite warning signs that a driver is putting themselves and others in danger. If you notice any of the following signs in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to have a serious discussion about giving up driving and finding alternate transportation.
Signs that Driving May Be Too Dangerous
- Frequent traffic tickets, minor fender benders, and close calls.
- Increased anxiety while driving, inability to stay focused, or getting lost – especially in familiar locations.
- Tailgating, drifting lanes, or misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections or on highway ramps.
- Trouble seeing traffic signs or markings on the pavement.
- Confusing the gas and the brake pedals.
- Inability to turn around to look behind you.
- Slow reaction time or confusion.
- Friends, family members, or neighbors express concern.
The decision to give up driving can be heart breaking and should never be taken lightly. Ideally, it’s one that would be made with collaboration and support of loving friends and family. Life changing as it will be, it also gives everyone the peace of mind that comes with knowing that those they care about will be safe.
Visit the Davis Community’s Assisted Living in Wilmington NC
If you or a loved one are no longer capable of living completely alone – maybe you’ve experienced the loss of independence that can accompany the decision to give up driving, call the Davis Community today at 910-686-7195. We provide exceptional assisted living in Wilmington NC with a strong and supportive environment where you or your loved one will feel welcomed and part of an active community. Get to know the difference today – schedule a visit to the Davis Community!