Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, Dec. 6-10, 2011

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the safest drivers are between the ages of 64 and 69 years old — they tend to wear their seat belts, and drive shorter distances less frequently. Driving is considered a right, and to many seniors it’s what keeps them independent and connected. However, normal aging is associated with many physical changes that can affect driving including slower reaction time, poor depth perception, visual and hearing deficits, decreased ability to focus and side effects from medications.

By 2030, one out of every five drivers will be over the age of 65 (www.aaa.com). Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is December 6-10. If you’ve had concerns about a loved one or a friend with regard to driving, here are some questions to help start a conversation (www.nhtsa.gov) — Are you:

  • Getting lost on routes that should be familiar?
  • Noticing new dents or scratches to the vehicle?
  • Receiving a ticket for a driving violation?
  • Experiencing a near miss or crash recently?
  • Being advised to limit/stop driving due to a health reason?
  • Overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving?
  • Taking any medication that might affect driving safely?
  • Speeding or driving too slowly for no reason?
  • Suffering of any illnesses that may affect driving skills?

In addition, AARP (www.aarp.org) teamed up with the MIT AgeLab – in conjunction with the Hartford — to produce “We need to talk.” This on-line course provides family members information on the emotional connection to driving, tips on observing driving skills in their elderly parents and how to broach the subject of diminished skills.

So, be prepared with your observations and questions, and if necessary, suggest possible transportation alternatives. AAA offers free mature driver safety programs, including assessments and expert advice on aging and driving. (www.aaa.com).

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