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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Safe Driving at Any Age

As you age, you may notice a change in your driving ability. It may become harder to look over your shoulder to change lanes or leg weakness may make it difficult to move quickly from the gas to the brake pedal. There is also a decrease in reaction times as we age.

It is a challenge sometimes to know when a senior is unable to continue driving. These signs can help you to decide if there is reason for an older motorist to give up driving.

-  Eyesight problems may interfere with the ability to focus, to use peripheral vision, or to see at night. If there is a reduction in functional eyesight, this should be evaluated by a doctor.

-  If your hearing is decreasing, it can affect your driving ability. You should still be able to hear other cars honking, sirens, and the sound of cars accelerating next to you.

-  Reflexes diminish as we age and can cause a change in our driving functions. A good driver should be able to brake and look behind very quickly. You should also be able to move quickly between the gas and brake pedals without hesitation.

-  If a driver is beginning to become frustrated or confused while driving, this could be a sign of impaired driving ability. You should be able to navigate roads well without getting lost frequently. If there are increased signs of anger or frustration, it may be time to consider if driving alone is still a reasonable choice.

-  If a senior begins to have trouble with memory, this is a strong sign that driving may no longer be safe. Impaired memory can lead to confusion and getting lost. When landmarks, exits, and familiar streets no longer seem like second nature, it can indicate a problem. Everyone, even a young driver, has occasional lapses in memory while driving, but if it becomes a pattern or causes a problem, it may be time to get evaluated by a doctor.

-  A decrease in general driving ability is also a strong indicator that it may be time to stop driving. If an older driver cannot stay in his or her lane, drifts into other lanes, brakes at inappropriate times, or does not accelerate to a safe speed, does not use turn signals, or ignores traffic signs, it may be time to stop driving altogether.

-  Finally, a red flag is numerous traffic citations or even accidents. If the older person in your life begins to relate stories of frequent "close calls," or you see dents or scrapes on the car or fences, mailboxes, a garage door, or curbs, it is time for a serious talk about his or her driving ability.

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