While a car is basically a tool that gets you from place to place, for most people it’s also a symbol of independence and freedom. Most people probably remember how excited they were when they got their first driver’s license as a teenager because it meant they no longer had to ask their parents for a ride every time they wanted to go somewhere.
For senior citizens, when they get to a point where they don’t feel comfortable or safe driving anymore, or their families decide that it’s no longer safe for them to be on the road, it can feel like a loss of independence. It means they are dependent on others for transportation and to run errands, like grocery shopping or going to the bank.
However, getting older does not necessarily mean you have to give up driving, even if you have to adjust your routine a little bit. After all, while our vision may decline as we get older, that may simply mean we have to stop driving at night. Yes, our hearing may not be quite as good as it was when we were younger, so we may not be able to drive with the radio on anymore.
Important signs to look for
It’s important to know the difference between signs that indicate a serious problem and signs that mean you may have to make some adjustments. For example, if you’re starting to have problems judging the stopping distance between your car and the one in front of you, that’s a dangerous situation that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, if you’re simply driving a little bit slower than you used to, that’s a situation that can be managed.
Most drivers, as they get older, start noticing one or more of the following signs.
These are also important for family members to be aware of:
-Other drivers honking
-Overly tentative about lane changing
-Drifting into curbs or toward the lane markers
-Anxious about making left turns
-Dents and scrapes on their car
There are three primary aging-related issues that tend to affect people’s driving ability. Declining or inconsistent vision is one of the more common ones. This can make it difficult to read street signs, react to stop lights, stay clear of other vehicles and pedestrians, and identify safety markers. A decline in hearing can also cause problems for the driver If he or she is unable to recognize emergency sirens or hear another driver’s horn. Finally, cognitive ability is also very important for driving safety because it involves reaction time and the ability to make quick decisions.
What you can do:
First of all, remember that a decline in these abilities is a normal part of aging, so you are not alone. If your issues are minor, you may be able to continue driving on a limited basis. At some point, however, most of us age to a point where it’s not safe for us to be behind the wheel. That is also a normal part of aging.
Ways you can adapt to the situation:
-If you’re having vision problems after dark, limit your driving to daytime hours.
-Limit your driving to areas you are familiar with so that you don’t have to look repeatedly at a map.
-Stay off the road during hazardous weather, like heavy rain or icy conditions, which require much faster reaction times.
-Be aware if any medications you’re taking can impair your driving ability so you can avoid driving while taking them.
-If you wear glasses, make sure you have them with you.
-At this time in your life, it’s important to prioritize safety over your comfort, convenience, or ego. And it’s not just your safety that’s involved. The safety of anyone else in your car or on the road around you is also at stake.