With the number of older adult drivers rapidly increasingâ€”already up thirty-four percent in 2012 versus 1999â€”the need for resources to help us all practice safe driving as we age has never been greater. The American Geriatrics Societyâ€™s (AGS) safe driving campaign provides information to these older adults and their caregivers to help them identify resources available to promote mobility, independence, and freedom to maintain physical and mental well-being.
Various issues can affect our ability to drive at any age. It is important to test and evaluate when changes in physical or mental well-being related to age might prompt a need to reevaluate driving and transportation needs. Many older adults can drive safely into their 80â€™s and beyond. However, since various physical changes linked to aging can impact safe driving, it is important that older drivers - and the people who care for them - evaluate their needs and safety while they are on the roads.
The following issues can be warning signs that suggest that you or an older adult in your care should get tested for their ability to drive safely:
- Getting lost in familiar areas
- Ignoring traffic signs and signals
- Becoming easily agitated or angered when driving
- Falling asleep or inability to concentrate when driving
- Reacting too slowly to dangerous situations
- Forgetting or ignoring driving basics â€“ when to yield right of way, for example
- Having trouble judging distances
When older adults stop driving, itâ€™s crucial to maintain their independence by creating alternative transportation solutions. Sit down with the older adult and determine where they drive on a regular or even occasional basis. Then, research the travel options available in your area, and select those that match the older adultâ€™s needs for each trip they make. For example, if an older adult attends a weekly faith-based gathering, think of different ways they could get there. Make sure youâ€™ve got all the older adultâ€™s trips covered with a transportation option so they can continue to enjoy their usual activities.