Freedom to travel by automobile is important to maintain independence and age should never be the sole indicator in evaluating one’s driving ability. As a mature driver, you bring a wealth of experience to the driver’s seat but, as we age, some skills necessary for safe driving – reflexes, hearing, vision, etc., begin to deteriorate. It is normal, as we age, for our driving abilities to change. Reducing risk factors and having awareness of safe driving practices will make it possible for many to continue driving safely long into senior years.
Aging does not automatically equal loss of driving ability and there are many things you can do to continue driving safely:
• Check with your doctor about medications or other physical limitations that may affect your driving ability.
• Have your hearing and eyes checked every year. Stay current with corrective lenses and wear hearing aids when driving.
• Choose a vehicle with an automatic transmission and keep your car in good working condition. Keep windows and headlights clean.
• Drive defensively and avoid distractions such as use of cell phone, driving map or GPS.
• Know your limitations and situations that make you uncomfortable. Drive during daylight hours, stay off freeways, and avoid driving in stormy weather. Plan your route before you leave.
• Listen to relatives and friends if they express a concern about your driving and take an honest look at your driving ability.
Get a professional evaluation of your driving ability from an occupational therapist or certified driver rehabilitation specialist. A neutral third party perspective can help you in your self-assessment of driving skills.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has a self-rating tool with facts and suggestions on their website:
http://seniordriving.aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Driver652.pdf. Ask someone who knows you well to share in the exercise so you can have feedback and stay honest with yourself.
Adjusting to life without a car may be challenging at first and it takes a lot of courage to stop driving and put the safety of yourself and others first. But, there are many benefits of not driving you may not have considered.
• Save money – cost of care ownership including insurance, registration, maintenance and fuel. Saving on these can pay for alternative transportation if necessary, and often using a taxi or shuttle for short trips can cost far less than ownership.
• Improved health – not driving may mean walking or cycling more, which can help boost energy, sleep better and improve balance and physical confidence. Exercise is good for your mind, mood, and memory.
• Change of pace – not driving for many, results in slowing down. A slower pace can be beneficial for reducing stress.
Transportation alternatives will help adjust to not driving and keep you from becoming housebound. You may want to consider moving to an area with more options such as public transportation, community shuttles/senior transit, taxis or private drivers.
Find transportation options in your community by contacting key resources:
www.eldercare.gov (800-67-1116) and