October 7, 2013

photo courtesy of DSA Crown©

Older Driver Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2008, more than 5,500 older adults were killed in traffic crashes, and more than 183,000 older adults were injured. They also report that adults over the age of 65 made up 15 percent of all traffic-related fatalities. Since driving abilities change with age, it’s important for drivers and their families to discuss potential limitations before getting behind the wheel. The NHTSA has a variety of resources that help family members and senior drivers recognize signs of diminished driving abilities.

Discussing Limitations with Senior Drivers

Elderly driver safety is a growing concern for many families with aging parents and relatives. Diminishing cognitive skills and deteriorating vision can put other drivers on the road at risk. It might be helpful to speak with a loved one’s doctor too. The NHTSA says it’s time to talk to older drivers when you can answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions.

• Does your family member get lost in familiar areas?
• Does your loved one suffer from dementia, eye conditions, arthritis, neurological disease, Alzheimer’s disease or diabetes?
• Is your family member taking any medications that might interfere with driving abilities?
• Are there new dents or scratches on his or her vehicle?
• Have there been any recent citations, tickets or warnings when driving?
• Have there been any close calls lately?
• Does your family member seem overwhelmed when driving?
• Does your loved one stop inappropriately, drive too slow or in any way obstruct the safe flow of traffic?
• Has a doctor spoken with your family member about driving abilities?

Nurturing Independence during Later Life Stages

For many seniors, driving allows them the independence that they’re accustomed to. It’s important to nurture that need for independence when handling this potentially controversial subject. Alternative means of transportation should be discussed as well as potential schedule changes. Ultimately, a loved one should understand that driving abilities need to be addressed to keep everybody on the road safe.

Roadway Safety for Everyone

Roadway safety depends upon the sharp and vigilant driving abilities of everybody behind the wheel. Although initiating a conversation with an older family member can seem intimidating, it may save lives. Additionally, elderly drivers are more susceptible to injuries and death in traffic accidents, so it’s important to address your concern about their wellbeing and the safety of others. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s driving abilities, it’s time to talk about it.

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