Chinese philosopher Confucius once said that “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” Obviously he was never stuck driving behind an elderly person on a road with long stretches of no passing zones! And the problem isn’t getting any better. At the website Smart Motorist, they predict that the number of drivers age 70 and above will triple in the United States over the next two decades (www.smartmotorist.com).
Letting Go of Driving Privileges
Older drivers are more vulnerable to crashes because as people age they have more health-related concerns. Hearing and vision loss, slower reflexes, and the onset of medical conditions like dementia are just a few of the things that affect the driving skills of older people. But why is it that the elderly are so reluctant to turn in their license?
For a lot of elderly people, losing their driving privileges equates to being forced into complete dependency, even if they’re still living at home and otherwise getting about just fine. But while losing driving privileges due to the decline of skills required to stay safe behind the wheel might hurt one’s pride, it’s a far lesser pain than what is experienced as a result of a car crash.
Preventing a Crash
Practically every day an elderly person behind the wheel of a car makes a wrong choice that could cause an accident. Whether they make a wrong turn, go the wrong way on the highway, or fail to hit the brakes in time, the plain truth is that as with many other vehicle crashes, a lot of car accidents involving the elderly can be prevented. Here are some of the things that can be done.
- Listen to Your Doctor – If your family doctor warns you that your health is declining to the point where it could affect your driving abilities then it’s time to hang up the car keys. Even if you are lucky enough to have not yet caused an accident doesn’t mean your luck will hold out forever. And perhaps you will only have to give them up at certain times, like at night or during times of high traffic.
- Get a Driving Test – If you’re unsure whether your abilities are up-to-date then schedule an appointment with your local Division of Motor Vehicles to retake your driving test. Some driving schools will send an instructor right out to your home to help you check your driving skills and give a recommendation. If it’s been several decades since you first got your license, something is bound to have changed in that time.
- Avoid Night Driving – Navigating during the day is difficult enough but after dark, especially when there is a lot of other traffic on the road or the weather conditions are foul, it can be nearly impossible. When driving, try to be home for the day by dusk.
- Take the Back Roads – You will find that most expressways with multiple lanes are prone to higher amounts of traffic that travels at faster rates of speed. GPS and online navigation sites often offer alternate route suggestions that allow you to avoid confusion highways altogether.
Risk Is Proportional to Age
Have you experienced a close call recently? Maybe you had a fender bender that required consulting a personal injury law firm for advice or to represent you in court. Maybe you find yourself misjudging how far away a car is before you pull out in front of it, or you confuse the gas and the brake pedals.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, older drivers are staying licensed longer and driving more than the elderly of past generations. Additionally, the second highest rate of accidents with a fatality belonged to drivers aged 80 and older.
Alternatives to Surrendering the Keys
If any of these sound like you, then perhaps it is time to consider letting someone else take over the job of driving, even if it’s just during certain notoriously difficult times like at night or during rush hour. Easing into the act of handing over your car keys for good will make it easier on the entire family.
One alternative that works out great is to have a teenager who is legal to drive chauffeur you around. It gives them practice with an adult who is not their parent. No teenager wants to look dorky with a parent sitting next to them in the car, but driving a grandparent around is totally cool and helps strengthen the bond between the generations.
Freelance author Sophie Evans loves working from home because it allows her to spend more time with her family, which includes her husband, son, and daughter. She is constantly finding useful information online. For instance at www.bgs.com she read an article about how to expunge your criminal record. In addition to writing and her family, Sophie also loves Disneyland and Starbucks coffee.