When you think of aging, the first thing you probably think about is gray hair and wrinkles. But aging affects more than just your looks. In fact, every system is affected from cardiovascular to digestive to muscular and more. Driving ability is another area that’s affected by getting older.
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45 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older
But an elderly driver doesn’t mean they’re an unsafe driver. In 2018, there were more than 45 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older in the U.S. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there were 30 million licensed drivers 70 and older in 2019. That same year, 4.88 million drivers in America were 80 to 84 years old, while 4.07 million were 85 and older.
At nearly 20.5 million people, drivers aged between 55 and 59 represented the largest group of licensed drivers in 2019
If you’re an older driver, important to reflect on your thoughts about driving and ask yourself a few questions to find out how truly comfortable you are behind the wheel. If you’re a caregiver for an aging adult, or a child of an elderly parent, discuss driving safety as a family. As adults age, they need to adjust and adapt to being an older driver. That can mean adding a removable non-slip handle on car doors to get up from the car seat easily. Or a seat belt extender for easier reach. Or panoramic rearview mirrors. Even how you register your vehicle; as you may prefer to get paperwork done online instead of driving to the DMV.
Can you easily see your blind spots?
As people age, they typically have less strength, coordination, and flexibility which can affect driving. Think about the difficulty level of various movements you make when driving. For example, do you find it hard to look over your shoulder for blind spots when changing lanes. Is it painful or uncomfortable to change lanes? Do you have any trouble with the car’s pedals; going from foot on gas pedal to braking? What about the steering wheel? How easy is it to turn it to the right, and left?
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Traffic fatalities for people 65 and older in 2019 accounted for 20% of all traffic fatalities
How’s your walking ability?
There are also some activities you can do outside of driving that can affect difficulty levels when you’re behind the wheel. If walking or going up the stairs hurts you, or is uncomfortable, you may find that it can affect your driving too. Remember, there are different types of car accessories and modifications that can make your time on the road much more comfortable. So even if you answered “yes” to any of the questions listed above, that doesn’t mean you have to stop driving altogether. Just make sure to talk to a doctor on how to proceed.
How well do you see?
Eyesight is closely related to driving skills, it’s why vision is one part of the DMV exams you need to take to get your driver’s license and even to renew it years later. Think about how easily you can see traffic signs, not only during the daytime, also at night and the crack of dawn.
Your vision may be different depending on circumstances, such as glare from the sun, low visibility from bad weather, when it’s pitch black and there are no streetlights. As an older driver, you’re more likely to react to these nuances. You may be completely in control behind the wheel early morning, but have great difficulty or even anxiety about driving once the sun sets.
Safety features and accessibility are important concern for older adults since they have more difficulty navigating tight spaces, crouching down, and hoisting themselves up
Can you see the road 10 feet in front of your vehicle?
Make sure to visit an eye doctor if you feel that your vision may be impaired. Also, car maintenance can play a part in poor visibility. To optimize your vision as an older adult, always keep your windshield clean and free of debris. Check for fog on your headlights, streaks on mirrors, and so on. Sit on your car seat so that you’re elevated enough to see 10 feet in front of you.
Stay safe out there!