At 80 years old, my grandmother decided it was time to stop driving. Lucky for the family that it didn’t take much encouragement for her to give up the keys to the car after she backed into her neighbor’s fence. She admitted that she was no longer as focused as she should be and there were fears about unpredictable drivers out on the road. The family was willing to get her to doctors’ appointments, to the grocery, and, of course, all family functions. Many of her friends are not so lucky and are either still driving or are depending on taxi service or public transportation to get around.
As we get older, our driving patterns change due to retirement, changing schedules, and new activities that affect when and where we drive. Older adults drive safely because they have years of experience behind the wheel and tend to be more cautious by nature. Driving is a complicated task and should be taken seriously by all, especially older adults because if they are involved in an accident they are often hurt more seriously than younger drivers. Driving also requires people to see and hear clearly; as a result older drivers are more likely than younger ones to have trouble in certain situations, including making left turns, changing lanes, and navigating through intersections.
It is common with age that you begin noticing changes in your vision, hearing and physical abilities. Here are some of the common mistakes made by older drivers:
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Failing to stay in their lane
- Misjudging the time or distance needed to turn in front of traffic
- Failing to stop completely at a stop sign
- Speeding or driving too slow
Getting older does not necessarily mean a person has to give up their keys and their driving days have to come to an end. But it is important to plan ahead and take steps to ensure the safety of your loved ones on the road. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) offers free material to help you learn more about how to recognize and discuss changes in your older loved one’s driving. For your free copy of materials offered by NHTSA visit their site at www.nhtsa.gov.