As we age into our golden years, driving can become more dangerous. Following some basic tips can help keep you safe.
As our population lives longer, people are able to enjoy extended, full lives. The US life expectancy is about 80 years, but people are routinely living well into their 80s or 90s. Furthermore, more and more people are living to be 100 years old or older. In fact, some 72,000 Americans were over 100 in 2015, a 43% increase from 50,000 in 2000. Even at an advanced age, many people continue to enjoy everyday activities, including continuing to drive. As you age, it is normal for your driving abilities to change. By incorporating safe senior driving practices into your life, you can help avoid an accident and serious injuries that may come along with it.
As Our Bodies Change, We Should Keep Up with Safety Tests to Keep Everyone Safe
As we age, our joints get stiffer, our eyesight decreases and we may become hard of hearing. Aches and pains may slow down reaction time and our ability to focus may lessen. To offset these changes, the Fort Myers car accident lawyers at Viles & Beckman offer some simple tips to help seniors stay safe on the road:
Elderly Driving Tip: Have your hearing checked.
Hearing loss is often a gradual decrease in one’s ability to hear clearly. In fact, hearing loss is one of the most common conditions that affect elderly adults, as approximately 1 in 3 people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss. Having trouble hearing can be frustrating and embarrassing, but it can also dangerous, especially when it comes to operating a motor vehicle. In order to ensure that you and everyone else on the road is safe, it is important to make sure that your hearing is at a sufficient level to be able to drive through a hearing test administered by your local DMV, an audiologist, or an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist (also known as an otolaryngologist). Additionally, if you were prescribed a hearing aid, be sure to always wear it while driving to prevent a motor vehicle accident due to the inability to hear other traffic, sirens, etc.
Elderly Driving Tip: Have your eyes examined regularly.
Ensuring that your vision is adequate for driving is obviously a very important part of ensuring that your natural agin is not affecting your ability to drive. If you wear glasses, be sure that you always have them with you when driving and that you have the proper eyeglass lenses prescription. Getting regular eye tests from the DMV or your ophthalmologist is an important part of safe driving as you age.
Elderly Driving Tip: Check your medications.
Checking with your doctor to ensure your medications will not negatively affect you driving is an extremely important part of being a safe driver as you age. Two-thirds of senior drivers take five or more daily medications that could possibly affect their ability to drive safely. Prescription medications and over-the-counter medications could cause drowsiness or other risks related to driving safely. Even if you’ve never had a problem with your current medications, they may begin to affect you differently as you age or as you add in new and different medications (medication interactions). Some medications that could impact your driving include: tranquilizers, narcotic pain medications, sleep medications, antidepressants, cough medicines and decongestants, and antihistamines. Never drive if you feel fatigued, dizziness or ill because of your prescriptions. There are many inexpensive options these days for getting where you need to go that don’t require you to drive on a day that you are feeling particularly drowsy, like rideshare apps that are very easy to use.
Elderly Driving Tip: Make sure you get good sleep and are not drowsy.
Around one-third of people of all ages have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel. Driving while a little tired may seem harmless, but it could have serious consequences. Driving while fatigued could cause you to get into a car accident, hit a pedestrian, or run into a motorcyclist that could possibly harm yourself or someone else. Driving while drowsy is dangerous, and it is well-documented to have similar effects to driving like you have a blood alcohol level of between .05 and.10 depending on how long you have been awake. Drowsy driving makes it hard to pay attention to the road and traffic around you, while greatly impacting your reaction time. So before getting behind the wheel, be sure that you get plenty of rest and that you show no signs of being tired or drowsy.
Elderly Driving Tip: Inspect your vehicle.
We have focused on making sure that you, as the driver, are safe to operate your vehicle, but what about your car being safe? To ensure your car is safe, seniordriving.aaa.com suggests:
- Check around the vehicle for obstacles that might interfere with its safe movement.
- Check the driveway, parking area or street for children or other pedestrians. Several hundred children are killed each year by vehicles backing up.
- Inspect the headlights, windshield, side and rear windows, turn signals, brake lights and taillights. If necessary, clean and replace items that are broken or not working properly.
- Visually inspect your tires for obvious signs of a problem and notice which direction the front wheels are pointed. Check tire pressures at least once each month, because visual inspection alone may not reveal an improperly inflated tire.
- Check under the vehicle for fluid leaks.
- Look inside the vehicle before entering, especially the back seat, to improve your safety and protect yourself against carjacking.
And since most of us are not well-versed in how cars function, it is best to take you care to a professional to have the following checked on a regular basis, depending on the age of your vehicle.
- Engine oil
- Brake fluid
- Drive belts
- Transmission fluid
- Power-steering fluid
Elderly Driving Tip: Know now your limitations.
Knowing your own limitations is an important part of driving safely as you age. As we have mentioned above, be sure that you eyes, hearing, medications, and lack of sleep are not going to hinder your driving. Furthermore, try not to drive for long periods at a time, especially if you know that driving for a long period of time begins to negatively affect your driving. If you feel ill or exhausted, pull over and contact someone to come get you. It is always better safe than sorry.
Elderly Driving Tip: Listen to others.
If your friends and family express concern, try to find a way to understand where they are coming from. Listen to their advice and input, and take it to heart. If you feel that you are still capable of driving safely, prove to your loved one that you are capable by having the tests above done, and consider having them go on a drive with you.
Remember, anyone who is concerned about your ability to drive is only trying to help keep you safe. Getting older can be frustrating, especially when you start to loose freedoms, like the ability to drive. But your safety and the safety of other people and children is more important than being able to drive for a little longer. Consider this seriously if you think your driving is becoming unsafe.
Accident victims of any age should consult a Fort Myers auto accident attorney after a motor vehicle crash. Even the safest drivers may be involved in an accident when another motorist acts carelessly or recklessly. An accident attorney can help you handle the insurance companies while you focus on your recovery.
For more information, contact Viles & Beckman, LLC with our online form or by calling us at (239) 334-3933. Our well-qualified, experienced accident attorneys provide effective legal counsel for you and your loved ones in the event of an accident.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.