Driving is a form of independence, and older drivers usually want to keep that autonomy as long as possible. But, as with all freedoms, there are responsibilities attached. The first week of December brings us Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. So it’s a perfect time to visit this topic.
If your driving habits are changing, contact Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free policy review. Perhaps you are driving less frequently or have eliminated a vehicle. Our team can make sure you aren’t paying more than necessary for your insurance.
Older Drivers Bring Experience and New Challenges
By the time a person reaches their seventies, they have likely been driving for more than half a century. That is a lot of practice and muscle memory built up. Compared to younger motorists, older drivers more often follow safe behaviors on the road, such as:
- They are more likely to wear a seat belt.
- They are less likely to drink and drive.
- They are less likely to drive in bad weather.
- They are less likely to speed.
These habits certainly help to keep mature drivers safe on the road. But, as people age, other risk factors begin to arise, including:
- Failing Eyesight
- Failing Hearing
- Slower Reflexes
- Taking Medications
These issues likely contribute to the fact that older drivers are more likely to die in car crashes than middle-aged motorists. Because of these concerns, many states have different license requirements for mature drivers. The most common change is an increase in vision screenings and more frequent renewals.
Safe Practices for Aging Drivers
To stay safe while driving as you age, here are some health concerns to consider:
Make sure to get your vision checked every year. If you need glasses or contact lenses, always wear them while driving. And consider prescription sunglasses for sunny days if you notice your eyes becoming more sensitive to light as you get older.
If you ever notice fuzzy or double vision, see a doctor right away and do not drive until you get their approval.
Many older drivers suffer from hearing loss, leading to unsafe driving situations. See a hearing specialist each year to ensure that you can hear sirens, trains, and horns while driving.
Any time your doctor prescribes a new medication for you, ask if you can safely drive while taking the prescription. Many medicines can lead to sleepiness or dizziness, making it unsafe for you to operate a vehicle.
Forgetfulness frequently increases with age. But if you find that you have a hard time remembering where you are going, it’s time to talk with your doctor. Confusion while you are on the road leads to mistakes that can be deadly.
How To Know When It’s Time To Turn In Your Keys
Most drivers know that they will have to give up their keys someday. But that knowledge doesn’t make it easier to accept the loss of independence.
Recent data shows that more than 8000 traffic-related deaths involve older drivers. And adults age 75 and over are more likely to sustain injuries in a car accident, as well. So, knowing when it’s time to stop driving can be, literally, a matter of life and death.
Here are some signs that it may be time to stop driving:
- You’ve had several near misses or crashes in a short time.
- You’re getting lost going to places that are familiar to you.
- You feel overwhelmed by road signs and the activity around you.
- You’re accumulating dents from poor parking.
- You take medications that make you tired.
- Your doctor or family members express concerns about your driving.
Alternatives to Driving
Many people who don’t drive rely on family and friends for transportation. Of course, this option isn’t the same as driving yourself, but it is probably safer. And the odds are that you have several people who are willing and able to help.
If you do not have someone available to help with driving, taxis and ride-sharing services can be an excellent option. And some communities also have senior buses that take a group of older adults to the grocery store regularly. Some churches offer this option, too.
Online shopping and delivery can be the perfect way to get what you need without relying on others for transportation. Most major retailers offer this service.
How To Talk with Someone About Their Driving
Many adults have to navigate this change with their parents or other loved ones. They are watching for signs that a person’s driving habits are no longer safe. Situations like the following raise enormous red flags:
- Your grandfather confuses the brake pedal with the gas pedal and runs into the garage door.
- Your mother experiences decreased mobility and ‘helps’ her foot from one pedal to the other by lifting her leg with her hand. She hasn’t caused an accident yet.
- Your elderly uncle misjudges the distance between his car and a building and scrapes his door.
Whether it’s the ability to stay focused, to move quickly between pedals, or something else, diminished driving skills result in accidents. And if you are worried, you need to speak up to the person.
Nobody wants to have this conversation. Be gentle and stick to the facts. Explain which actions and behaviors you find worrisome. Talk through the potential consequences with the person and encourage them to make the choice while they are still in control. If they cause an accident, they may have no say in the matter.
Many older drivers are more open to the idea of stopping driving if it comes from their doctor. Ask your loved one to discuss any potential barriers to safe driving with their physician.
While You’re on the Road, We’ve Got You Covered
Whether you’re ready to hang up your license or plan on driving for years to come, we are here to serve. With auto, home, life, and health insurance plans, our team has something for everyone.
Our offices in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN, have friendly agents ready to help. Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency today for a free review of all your policy needs.