It’s important for drivers of all ages to exercise caution on the road. However, being conscientious about driving is especially important for seniors; studies have found that the rate of car accidents for adults begins to rise after age 65. There are multiple reasons as to why the older adults can be more susceptible to driving-related accidents; fortunately, step can be taken to help mitigate such obstacles.
Facts and Figures
Recent statistics bear out the challenges facing older drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that, in the year 2012 alone, over 214,000 seniors were injured due to automobile accidents. Furthermore, car crashes claimed the lives of more than 5,560 older adults during the same year. On an average per-day basis, these figures work out to 586 injuries and 15 deaths.
Research has found that as seniors get older, their risk of being involved in a fatal collision likewise increases. Between the ages of 70 and 74, the fatal crash rate (per mile travelled) for seniors rises notably, and further increases after the age of 85. The cause of these rising mortality rates has less to do poor driving, and more to do with the fact that injuries and medical complications are more likely to affect older adults.
Body, Mind and Car
As we advance deep into adulthood, the body undergoes a number of changes that can make driving more difficult. Many older drivers find themselves struggling with diminished eyesight, hearing loss and stiff joints. In addition, the body’s reaction time also slows over time. These changes can easily make it harder for senior motorists to properly respond to their surroundings.
Listed below are some tips for overcoming these limitations:
In many cases, eye conditions can be addressed with proper medical care. For example, seniors with glaucoma or cataracts often benefit from undergoing surgery. Presbyopia, a condition that makes nearby items appear blurry, can be treated with prescription eye glasses. Adults aged 65 and older are encouraged to have their vision examined every one to two years.
Older adults often develop nearsightedness, a condition that makes it difficult to see objects from a distance. While eyeglasses and contact lenses are often very helpful for dealing with this issue, they will eventually have to be replaced. Seniors who rely on these visual aids when driving should renew their prescriptions when needed.
As with your eyesight, it is important for older adults to have their ears checked on a regular basis. Every three years, those over fifty should have their hearing tested at least once. Be completely honest with your doctor about any hearing-related issues you may be experiencing. Oftentimes, seniors are prescribed hearing aids to deal with such problems.
When driving, minimize any possible auditory distractions inside your car. For instance, you might find it helpful to shut the radio off and to limit conversations with others.
Decreased Reaction Speed
Because human reaction speed tends to erode with time, it’s helpful to place yourself in driving situations where lightning-quick reflexes aren’t needed. A good strategy is to leave four-seconds worth of space between your car and the vehicle in front of it. To avoid rear-end collisions, develop a habit of applying the brakes early before coming to a stop.
High-traffic areas can always be dangerous spots for motorists, both young and old alike. Steer clear of these bottlenecks if possible. Likewise, some seniors find making left-hand turns to be rather nerve wracking. Fortunately, older drivers can get around this obstacle by taking three right turns instead. If such an option is not available, make sure you have a large enough gap to avoid oncoming traffic.
Highway driving can become increasingly difficult with age. You can avoid fast-moving cars on these roads by staying in the slower-paced right hand lane. Regardless of where you’re driving, it is important to remain conscientious about what lays ahead of you down the road.
To make driving less taxing on your body, consider purchasing a vehicle with large mirrors, power steering and power brakes. Some older adults use adaptive devices when driving, such as steering wheel knobs, hand controls and pedal extenders. Drivers who feel that their health interferes with their driving should consult with a medical professional.