It is no secret that the aging process involves a number of health challenges. These can include, but not be limited to, declining vision, hearing and physical mobility, as well as diminished cognitive abilities such as forgetfulness and waning concentration. Medical issues also occur more frequently and include long lists of medications, often with side-effects. While each of these concerns are all reasonably normal, the effects of aging can add up to be quite dangerous when getting behind the wheel.
In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 6,900 people age 65 and older were killed in auto accidents last year, amounting to 19 percent of all traffic fatalities. Countless more seniors were injured, and the normal effects of aging were mostly to blame.
Seniors and their loved ones, however, do not have to wait until an accident to do something to protect themselves. It is far better to act now, proactively, than to pick up the pieces later. This is one of the themes for National Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, which takes place the first week of every December. While the event has already passed, valuable information was shared about keeping seniors, and others, safe on the road.
Driving is a critical form of transportation and without it many Older Americans are confined to their homes unless alternatives are secured. Bear in mind, age shouldn’t automatically preclude driving. The best way to proceed if you have concerns is to seek an evaluation of driving skills and health-related driving conditions. A professional assessment can be a great way to get a baseline understanding on both accounts, and AAA Senior Driving offers plenty of helpful tips as well. The NHTSA also provides an interactive list of self-evaluation questions on its website, which you can share with your aging parents, including:
- How’s your eyesight?
- Do you have control of your vehicle?
- Does driving make you feel nervous, scared or overwhelmed?
- Are loved ones concerned about your driving?
- Do you drive with others, especially children or young adults?
Adult children can further assist aging parents by making vehicle adjustments, such as removing window tint, raising the driver’s seat for a clear view, and making sure windshield wipers are in good working condition. Advising older adults to only drive during the daytime, close to home and in good weather is also recommended. Finally, working with an attorney who understands these issues, as well as the complexities of the aging process, can make a critical difference in getting the help and support you and your loved ones needs.