A simple Google search for “senior safety” will turn up hundreds of website results for how to keep seniors safe at home, how to purchase the best medical alert button and how to find great in-home care. But is that all the conversation should entail?
Senior safety goes beyond learning about fall risks and potential financial scams; it’s also critical to talk about how elderly drivers can stay safe on the road. Elderly drivers must take extra safety precautions each year, so as not to injure themselves or those with whom they share the road.
The Truth About Driving And Senior Safety
According to recent data collected by the Centers for Disease Control, there were over 40 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in 2015. While the CDC acknowledges that the ability to drive a car can help you remain independent as you age, your age can also put you at greater risk on the road.
In 2014, car accidents resulted in over 5,700 senior deaths and 236,000 senior injuries that required treatment in emergency rooms across the country. The age group with the highest risk on the road? Those over the age of 85, although the CDC reports that risk begins to increase as early as 70 years of age. They have been able to attribute this to “an increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased risk of crash involvement.”
They also have found that “age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes, may affect some older adults’ driving abilities.” Experts also agree, however, that prevention doesn’t have to solely mean taking away a loved one’s keys. Prevention can instead be achieved by taking certain safety measures to ensure that elderly drivers can remain on the road.
How To Protect Elderly Drivers
In addition to encouraging senior drivers to wear their seatbelts and never drive while under the influence of alcohol, there are additional senior safety suggestions for elderly drivers:
- Exercise. Believe it or not, regular exercise can help improve your safety record on the road. A 2011 research study found that adults over the age of 55 can benefit from participating in a regular exercise program, especially when it comes to elderly drivers. The study found that those who exercised were better overall drivers and demonstrated greater speed when it came to reaction time.
- Make regular doctor’s appointments. In addition to making annual appointments with your primary care physician, where you should discuss how any prescription medications you might be taking could affect your skills as a driver, you should also keep regular appointments with specialists. This includes both eye and ear specialists. Changes that occur to both your hearing and vision can happen naturally with age, but if these changes go untreated they can increase your risk behind the wheel.
- Invest in a senior-friendly car. Not all cars are created equal when it comes to elderly drivers. A recent article published in the New York Times found that certain cars provide features that can help to keep elderly drivers safer on the road. In addition to pointing out how someone with arthritis can benefit from a car with power seats, the article also highlights senior safety features including “power windows and mirrors, a thicker steering wheel that is easier to grip, keyless entry, an automatic tailgate closer and a push-button to start (and stop) the engine.”
- Know your limits. You may begin to notice that it’s a little challenging to navigate the roads at night or in a rainstorm, and there’s no harm in choosing not to drive in those conditions. By acknowledging your own limits out on the open road, you’ll not only be able to keep yourself safe, you might also prevent yourself from injuring others.
Consider A Backup Safety Plan
It never hurts to have a safety net when you’re on the road. A portable medical alert button, such as Mobile Guardian or Active Guardian, are small enough to travel with you and can keep you connected to help, even when you’re behind the wheel. Not only can these medical alert buttons keep you connected to help in an emergency, their built-in GPS functionality will enable first responders to find your location quickly and easily. After all, when it comes to senior safety, you can never really be too careful.