The American Auto Association (AAA) is dedicated to keeping seniors driving for as long as safely possible and promoting viable transportation options for seniors who can no longer drive independently. They can aid in evaluating a senior’s driving ability, understanding mind and body changes, improve their overall driving skills, and so much more. What are some things you need to be aware of as far as senior driving safety is concerned?
Understanding Mind and Body Changes
As we know, the natural aging process can take a toll on anyone’s body. This includes affecting your vision, hearing, reaction time, and mental fitness. Your driving abilities as you age can increase your risk of a traffic crash. Instead of putting others at risk on the roads, you will want to evaluate yourself early and often. So what can you do to keep in shape?
- Vision: Eyesight is important because you need to know visual cues to drive on the road. You will want to be aware of sharpness of vision and changing focus, the risks of driving at night, and knowing about common vision problems like glaucoma, oracular degeneration, and cataracts. Many states will require motorists to undergo vision tests as part of a driver’s license renewal process, which you should always partake in.
- Hearing: Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults, which can include difficulty hearing things in noisy areas, difficulty distinguishing high-pitched sounds from one another, more difficulty hearing men’s voices than women’s voices, voices sounding mumbled or slurred, or ringing sounds in the ears. Hearing loss can be dangerous, so treatment options are made available such as hearing aids, certain medicines, or even surgery.
- Reaction Time: Pain or stiffness in muscles or joints could make it difficult to react quickly during emergencies. Motor skills can be affected by things like old back injuries, muscle aches, and pains. You can also look into managing slower reaction times by looking at your medications, and keeping your mind and body fit with strength, coordination, and flexibility.
- Medical Conditions and Medications: Medical conditions can increase a crash risk greatly. These conditions include impaired vision, physical limitations, dementia, diabetes, seizures, and sleep disorders. Some medications or combinations of medications can also impact your ability to drive safely. You should learn about how medications and common medical problems can affect your driving, and your state’s specific laws on medication use while driving.
- Mind and Cognition: As you age, your brain will need more time to process information; however, you can become aware of severe cognitive impairments like dementia. It is always a good idea to become an expert at detecting early warnings signs associated with dementia. (1)
Improving Your Driving Skills
It is important to keep your driving skills sharp to avoid crashes, which can include things like increased speed, dense traffic, poor weather, distractions, stress, and fatigue. You will want to prepare for your drive and hone your driving skills by adjusting to new vehicles and rental cars, finding out your body’s fit with the vehicle, and learning how to adjust your mirrors for proper usage. It is also good to be aware of the risks of driving in bad weather, how to handle unexpected situations like vehicle failure, and taking behind the wheel or online courses on driver safety. (2)
New Jersey Specific Laws for Seniors and Older Drivers
Can you believe that one out of every four New Jersey residents is 55 or older? Common rules say that all drivers must renew their licenses every four years and that vision tests may be required occasionally. What do you do if you think there is an unsafe driver on the road? The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission accepts request information from family members, physicians, judges, or police officers about individuals who may potentially be unsafe behind the wheel. Common causes for safety concerns can include visual impairment, confusion or disorientation, memory loss, impaired consciousness, Alzheimer’s or dementia, or sleep apnea. (3)
If you have been injured in a car accident and are a senior driver or became injured due to one, you may have a case. You may be entitled to rightful compensation for your injuries. Call MDL in New Jersey to find out about your state’s specific laws. You can receive a free consultation to get a case review.