December 2 to 6 is Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. Given 18% of all traffic fatalities are people who are 65 years of age or older, it is important to learn about senior safety on the road. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
Changes Influencing Seniors on the Road
Given how experienced most of them are as drivers, it can be hard for seniors to accept there are safety concerns about their driving. It’s important for them to know this isn’t because they are “bad drivers.”
Age-related changes that affect driving for seniors include:
- Limited vision or hearing
- Decreased reaction time, judgment, or attention due to health conditions
- Poor posture
- Weakness when operating a steering wheel, brakes, etc.
- Memory loss that leads to getting lost or confused
- Medications that impair judgment and reaction times
- Night-time driving exacerbates the effects of these changes on senior safety as well. (AARP)
Conversation Starters about Seniors’ Road Safety
Driving can be a sensitive topic for seniors. Use these questions to start conversations:
- Have you noticed any scratches or dents on your car recently?
- Have you experienced anything frightening on the road lately?
- Do any of your medications affect how you feel when driving?
- Are there any signs on your usual route that have been hard to spot?
- What’s the best route to get between (two points senior should be familiar with)?
- Would it be helpful to you if you didn’t have to drive all the time?
Increasing Driver Safety for Seniors
Encourage seniors to increase their safety on the road with these tips.
- Stay active to maintain flexibility and strength
- Make sure brakes, steering wheel, and seats function smoothly
- Drive at times of day with good visibility, and keep up to date on vision and hearing checks
- Use adaptors like extra mirrors
- Leave extra space between vehicles and stay below the speed limit
- Ask doctors about medications and their effects on driving