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Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital

 

Keeping Safe on Our Roadways

Elderly couple driving, large image.

Staying safe on our roadways has no age limit.

By the Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program
Friday, June 15, 2018

Keeping Safe on Our Roadways

Driving a motor vehicle is the most common form of transportation for older adults. It connects them to services they need to remain independent. However, as we age, we slowly lose skills needed to be safe drivers. Vision, strength, reaction time and thinking skills often decline over time.

Additionally, driving continues to get more complicated. Cars have more features that aren’t always easy to learn, and roads are more congested with increasingly confusing intersections.

The good news is that older drivers are among the safest on the road, with lower crash rates than other age groups. Older drivers also are more likely to wear seat belts and obey traffic laws. However, when older drivers are involved in a crash, the consequences can be devastating — even life threatening.

So let’s explore what older drivers can do to ensure they continue to be the safest drivers on the road.

  • Stay healthy and keep active. Overall strength and flexibility are essential to safe driving. Diligently manage health conditions. Keep vision and medical appointments. Check with your doctor to see if any of your medications can interfere with driving.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly adjusted for you. You should be able to see 3 inches over the steering wheel, have properly adjusted mirrors and be at least 10 inches back from the airbag. See: https://www.car-fit.org/downloads/AAA-CarFit-brochure-FINALApril2014.pdf
  • Take a driver refresher course. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers instructor-led or online driving courses that aim to improve driving skills and refresh knowledge of the rules of the road and potential hazards. Taking the course also can reduce your insurance rates in some cases. See: https://www.aarpdriversafety.org/why-take-our-course.html
  • Some physical challenges can be compensated for by using simple adaptive devices. If turning your head is limited or painful, a wide-angle mirror may work. Consider other devices like pedal extensions, seat cushions, back-up cameras or seat belt extensions. 
  • You also may benefit from working one-on-one with a driver rehabilitation specialist. This person is trained to assess a driver’s abilities and recommend practical retraining, adaptive devices and sensible driving restrictions. Although Truman VA does not offer this service, Veterans can receive a referral to an outside specialist. If you are interested, have your provider enter an outpatient Occupational Therapy consult.

Older drivers need to be aware of potential driving problems, and do everything they can to keep themselves and others safe on the road.

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