It should never be assumed that simply because someone is elderly, they are losing their faculties. Surgeon Mambet Mamakeev successfully performed operations into his 90s, and Steve Seaberg was a competent acrobat in his 80s. Ageism has no place in policy decisions, and no one should lose their right to drive based solely on their age. The fact of life, however, is that age takes a toll on the body. Most of us will see changes in our vision, hearing, and mobility as early as our 40s.
Statistics tell us that senior driving should be monitored. Seniors and people under 25 are most at risk for accidents, and drivers in their late 70s are injured in car accidents as often as drivers under 26. As we age, it is more difficult to recover from damage. We also become weaker and more vulnerable to injury. People over 85 are more likely to be injured or killed in a car accident.
This article is not meant to stigmatize elderly drivers. It is simply a discussion of the natural aging process and how that can sometimes affect vehicle operation.
Joints and muscles stiffen as we age. When our frame becomes less limber, quick movements become more difficult. You may be able to see and think quickly, but evasive action is impaired. Even when you register an oncoming threat in time, you may not be able to react. Moving too quickly can even cause a great deal of pain. Simply changing lanes can be difficult when you are moving slowly, and you could have difficulty braking.
As we age, we begin losing certain auditory frequencies and picking up others. Sound engineers will tell you that each age group has its own preferred EQ settings for music and movies. Even without direct hearing loss, these changes in hearing can affect your driving. High pitched car horns or low, rumbling engines can fall out of your auditory range, making hazard awareness more difficult.
Just like hearing, eyesight naturally weakens over time. The elderly are particularly susceptible to eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma. They sometimes have difficulty seeing during certain times of day. Some are sensitive to bright sunlight, while others suffer from “night blindness,” a difficulty adjusting to darker environments.
Clear vision is essential for driving. Even when you can see the general landscape well, you may have trouble with fine details. This could slow down your reaction time or cause you to miss signs and turns.
The facts on elder drivers are not all dreary. AAA is offering a driving course just for seniors called Roadwise Driver. You can take it online or in a physical classroom, and it will help keep you up to date on current driving standards.
This course helps seniors extend their safe-driving years. The class teaches skills to combat fatigued driving, distracted driving, road rage, and aggressive driving. It also provides training on the relationship between time and space and how it affects your driving. Trainings on how to avoid impaired driving are included, and they can help you find ways to stay comfortable while you drive.
It also teaches new driving techniques, presenting the most recent best practices. For example, many of us were taught to keep our hands at the “ten and two” position of the steering wheel. Today, drivers are taught to hold the wheel by the bottom, passing it from hand to hand.
The challenges of senior driving are covered in this course. It offers tips for handling reflex impediments and vision problems.
Car technology continues to advance. If you have upgraded to a new vehicle, you may be confused by these changes. This course will update you on the features of new cars. Rear cameras, adaptive cruise control, warnings, automatic stops, etc. will all be covered in the course.
The Pittman Firm, P.A. cares about the rights and safety of elder drivers. If you have been injured in a car accident, let us help. Our number is (850) 764-0383, and you can click here to contact us online.