According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the number of accidents per mile increase as drivers 65 years and older continue growing older. Excluding teenage drivers, senior drivers who are 80 years and older experience the most car fatalities. Growing older does not mean you can’t continue with everyday life. However, some signs indicate one should stop driving. Here are five ways to tell it’s time to hang up your driving gloves.
1. You’re straining to see
As you age, you may begin to notice a decline in your vision. Being able to see is essential when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. Many seniors suffer from cataracts, glaucoma, or strained eyes. For example, according to Health in Aging, about one in five seniors 65 years and older have a cataract.
If you notice significant changes in your vision, especially while driving, it’s important to visit an ophthalmologist. Even if your symptoms aren’t as severe as cataracts, if you have itchy eyes, or your eyes become sensitive to light, an eye examination with an ophthalmologist can help determine whether it’s time to hang up the driving gloves or not.
2. Medical conditions
It’s common for seniors to develop underlying health conditions when they age. According to the National Council on Aging, 92% of seniors have a chronic health disease. Some medical conditions are too risky for anyone to be driving on the road.
Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, and dementia can affect the way you drive. For example, seniors with mild Alzheimer’s may be able to drive safely when not traveling far. However, drivers with dementia typically do not have quick decision-making skills, potentially hurting or killing someone on the road.
Depending on your condition, it might be time to hang up your driving gloves.
3. You experience hearing loss
Hearing loss is a common complication among senior citizens. According to the National Institute on Aging, one in three seniors ages 65 through 74 experience hearing loss. Hearing impairment among senior citizens can be a sign of hanging up the driving gloves for many reasons.
There are many reasons why you want to hear on the road, such as needing to hear emergency vehicles and railroad crossings. If you are sitting on a railroad track and do not hear a train coming, you can see how your life could be put in jeopardy.
If you begin to experience hearing loss, schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist for a hearing exam. You can seek advice from your doctor, and hopefully, he/she can give you guidance about driving safely with your condition. However, take note that Medicare typically does not cover routine hearing exams.
It’s well known to not drive under the influence of alcohol, and the same applies to medications. Many seniors take medications to help with underlying health conditions. However, it’s common for drugs to have side effects.
Many medications have side effects, such as antipsychotic drugs, codeine, opioid pain relievers, benzodiazepines, and certain over-the-counter allergy medicines. If you take any of these medications and experience drowsiness or blurred vision, you should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Suppose you aren’t sure whether you should be driving while on your medications, consult your doctor or pharmacist about your concerns. You can seek advice on the way to manage your medicines while driving, or you may learn it’s time to hang up your driving gloves.
5. Reaction time is slow
It is natural for your reflexes to be slower when you age. Slower reflexes result in a slower response time to unexpected events that take place on the road, such as someone who swerves or slams on their brakes in front of you.
Now, not moving quickly does not necessarily mean you must stop driving, as you can leave more space between cars or avoid heavy traffic areas. However, if you notice a vast decline in your reflexes, you should consult your doctor. Driving means you are always on defense while on the road. So, it could be a sign to hang up the driving gloves if it’s hard to move quickly and make swift decisions.
Aging does not restrict you from doing everyday activities, such as driving. However, certain signs may indicate it’s not safe for you to be behind the wheel. If any of these five signs apply to you, it might be time to hang up your driving gloves.