(by Jennifer Perez del Rio, Sr. Occupational Therapist, Driving Program Coordinator)
Statistics indicate that older drivers have a significantly higher fatality rate per mile driven than any other age group, except for drivers under age 25. Accidents involving older drivers are related to the physical, visual and cognitive changes associated with aging. If someone you love is experiencing any one or more of the warning signs listed below, we urge you to consider having an open and honest conversation with them in order to determine if driving can be continued safely.
This often difficult, but incredibly important, conversation about driving and how age-related changes impact the safety of not only you and your loved one, but the people in our community, will no doubt have a lasting impact. If you determine safe driving is no longer an option, planning for alternative transportation options will become a necessary next step. Everyone wants to maintain an independent status and continue driving for as long as possible, but safety should always be the priority.
Be wary of any individual who experiences any of the following warning signs:
- Navigation errors, route confusion, frequent incidents of getting lost
- Unexplained dents or dings in the car
- Anxiety or fear about driving, or reports of a “near miss” while driving
- Recent history of “fender benders” or collisions
- Recent history of ticketed offenses or warnings
- Difficulty independently managing tasks like medication management or financial management
- Episodes of confusion
- Requiring a co-pilot for route finding or requiring assistance identifying hazards
- Delayed reaction times or slowed scanning
- Difficulty anticipating changes in road or potential hazards (construction or pedestrians)
- Distractibility or difficulty maintaining attention– requiring re-direction from caregivers
- Poor ability to understand road signs or changes in traffic patterns (bike lanes, merging, intersections)
- Range of motion impairments or muscle weakness making basic controls difficult (turning head, coordinating pedals, steering control)
- Visual impairments including macular degeneration, glaucoma and retinopathy, which are often combined with age related cognitive changes
For more information on driving safety, please contact the St. David’s Adaptive Driving Program at 512.544.8140.