With winter weather upon us, it is a good time for seniors to evaluate how safe they are as drivers and to consider if it is time to “retire” from driving and choose alternate transportation options. Winter driving can be hazardous at any age, and there are a few safety steps we can all take:
- Maintain your vehicle (tires, tune up, oil change, gas, etc.).
- Avoid driving in bad weather.
- Wait to drive until the roads are plowed and sanded.
As we age, it is normal for our driving abilities to change. Things like medications, decreased mobility and range of motion, slower reaction time, vision, hearing, and memory affect one’s ability to be a safe driver. Because we all age differently, there is no “cut off” age that is recommended or required for one to stop driving; however, sources state that fatal crash rates rise sharply after the age of 70. In addition to the health issues noted above that can adversely affect one’s ability to drive safely, close calls and increased citations and/or trouble with the basic nuts and bolts of driving such as signaling, braking, and accelerating are indicators that it is time to evaluate one’s driving and determine how and if one can be a safe driver. Steps you can take to ensure you are safe to be behind the wheel include:
- Talk with your doctor about medications and/or health issues you have.
- Have your vision and hearing check regularly.
- Take a driver refresher course through AARP, at the senior center, etc.
- Get your driving evaluated at the Courage Center or a driving agency.
Driving for seniors may not be an “all or nothing” decision: options to increase driving safety include driving only during daylight hours, not driving on freeways or highways, and driving primarily close to home on local streets. In our culture, we tend to think of driving as a right, not as a privilege, but it is important to remember that a car is a powerful machine that we should not take for granted and that we should be concerned not only about our own safety, but the safety of others we encounter when driving.
So what do you do if you realize that it is no longer safe for you to continue driving? Many people fear the loss of independence, but one can remain independent without driving, it just might require some changes and planning. One can even consider some benefits of not driving such as reduced expenses (no more insurance, repairs, gas, etc.). You might also discover that your social circle expands as you accept offers and/or ask for rides from friends, family, neighbors and others.
Other options for not driving include:
- Public transportation
- Ride sharing/carpooling
- Van (if living in a senior community)
- Metro Mobility
- Transportation services from home care agencies
- Walking or cycling
- Grocery and prescription delivery services
Making the decision to drive, modify your driving habits, or stop driving is a huge step in life. Facing this decision and making the choice to be a safe driver or a non-driver can prevent you from seriously injuring or killing yourself or someone else. And that’s the bottom line.
Holly Hansen, Partner, Brilliant Moves
EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA meets five times a year to exchange information and problem solve in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA please visit our website at www.edenprairieaging.org.