We all eventually face this question. At what point do deteriorating physical and mental abilities mean we should no longer drive a motor vehicle? For many of the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers that decision is at hand.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just put out some interesting facts:
• In 2015 there were 40 million people driving on U.S. highways and streets who are 65 and older
• That’s a leap of 50% since 1999
• In 2015 the number of people 70 and over was 31.7 million
• By 2030 that figure will be something like 53.7 million
It is the goal of governments federal, state and local that we keep older adults as independent and self-sufficient as possible. Driving is a part of that self-sufficiency. That’s one reason states hesitate to enact laws to restrict their driving.
Besides, they’re much safer than teenagers who cause most of the crashes on U.S. streets and highways. However, the worry is not causing accidents. Those over 65 are more prone to serious injury or death.
Fatalities — says the CDC — jumps between the ages of 70 and 74 and is highest among those 85 and up. So as age increases, the chance of serious injury or death increases and as such insurance rates go up.
That brings us full-circle to the question at hand. When do we give up the keys?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says it can answer that question. The keys — no pun intended — are five signs. If those five signs are present then, the keys need to be given up.
Key number 1 — Medical conditions: These would be anything that impairs memory, vision or mobility. Here are samples:
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Vision loss
• Heart disease
• Parkinson’s disease
Research from the IIHS says most drivers with these conditions will self-limit driving. Some, however, do not recognize they have those issues and keep driving. An AAA survey says 90% of drivers with these conditions say limiting their driving will make their lives more difficult.
Key 2 — Medication: Aging means we’re more likely to take more medication. Some medications — as we all know — aren’t that compatible with driving. Sometimes even an over-the-counter med can cause driving impairment.
AAA put a list together of what to look for in medication side effects:
• Blurred Vision
• Chest Pain
• Muscle Cramps
Key 3 — Cognitive decline: One thing to look for is confusion. Drivers stop at green lights or are confused about other signals or signs, or seem confused by traffic. Another sign is getting lost when behind the wheel.
Key 4 — The driver’s vehicle needs to go: A newer vehicle makes it easier for an older driver to drive. They have warning bells and better mirrors, back-up cameras, etc. Plus, older cars have maintenance issues and designs that could cause an older driver serious injuries when in a mishap.
Key 5 — There’s no real reason to drive: In cities seniors have access to alternative forms of transportation that those in rural areas might not find. This is buses, cheaper taxis, Uber, Lyft, etc.
And statistics say they might live longer if they give up driving at some point.
Key 6 — Local road and signage upgrades: This has more to do with what communities can do for senior drivers than their driving. They’ll do better if they can read signs and drive on better roads.
Low-cost structure changes — says the IIHS — like left turn lanes, etc. can make serious reductions in the auto accidents of older people.
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