Muscles become weak, joints become stiff and reflexes become slow with age. You can find it increasingly difficult to steer the car, apply brakes or even look over your shoulder when a combination of these problems occur. Your hearing and vision, especially at night, may also get impaired. The hazard of driving with impaired hearing may not be as dangerous as driving with impaired vision, but you may not hear the horn or the siren of a vehicle in an emergency coming towards you. I have started to feel some of these symptoms in the last year. Here are a few tips of what to look for and what can be done to remain safe.
So, when should you stop driving entirely?
• Mental changes occur with age
Time to react may increase and maintaining sufficient concentration as well as take instant decisions may become difficult with age.
• Driving can be affected by medical conditions
o Alzheimer’s – You may have loss of memory, react slowly, be unable to judge distances and space and lose the ability to see ahead.
o Arthritis – Looking in the rear view mirror, gripping the steering wheel and pressing the brake pedal may become problem.
o Diabetes – You may feel dizzy, shaky or confused and even lose consciousness with a dangerous drop in the sugar level.
o Parkinson’s – Rigidity, slow movement and tremors could prevent quick motions or drive the car properly.
o Stroke – You may lose muscle control, have mental imbalance and reduced vision.
• Side effects of medicines
You may feel drowsy and your reaction time may slow down with both prescribed and bought over-the-counter drugs because of your increased sensitivity due to age. Look for the warnings given on the labels of sedatives, painkillers, antihistamines and medicines for diabetes and depression.
Check when the time to give up driving occurs
Answer honestly the following questions to know…
• Have you picked up tickets for traffic offenses or have got involved in accidents that were avoidable?
• Has any of your passengers felt any insecurity when you were driving?
• Do you prefer to drive more slowly now?
• Do you lose your concentration while driving?
• Are you more erratic in your driving than you were earlier?
• Have your reactions slowed down?
• Do other drivers have to blow their horn at you more often?
• Do you often miss traffic lights, road signs or directions?
Watch out for the above indications in an elderly driver.
Deciding suddenly or giving up gradually?
You do not necessarily have to give up driving and sell your car just because you are growing older. Try to drive only during daylight hours when there is less traffic, and it is safer instead. Consider taking a driving test if you are unsure. Take someone to share some of the driving and plan to rest at more stops during a long drive.
Try to drive as safely as possible as long as you can. Give it up if you feel that your driving abilities are getting affected by age, medicines or medical conditions.