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How Does Aging Affect Driving?

By Melissa Hill, 9:00 am on

The aging process eventually impacts our physical and cognitive abilities to drive effectively and, eventually, to be safe drivers. Reaching this stage can make us a danger to both ourselves and others. Therefore, Oklahoma elderly care professionals recommend we understand how aging impacts our ability to drive safely and recognize the signs that we might have to make the difficult decision to give up this part of life that we have long taken for granted.

On average, car crashes and traffic citations begin to rise dramatically after the age of seventy. The causes for these increases are related to the conditions aging presents the body and mind, be it vision and hearing impairment, slower motor reflexes, or difficulty in making complex and immediate decisions.

Additionally, chronic conditions can exacerbate already declining physical and cognitive abilities. For example, high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, dementia, back and neck pain, and a history of cardiac problems and stroke increase risk factors exponentially.

Practically speaking, a decrease in our flexibility, strength, coordination, and decision-making are evidenced in these and other situations:

  • Diminished reaction time caused by visual impairment can make it difficult to recognize that the vehicle in front of us is slowing or stopping, or that a car, child, or pet is darting into our lane.
  • Leg pain can impact our ability to hit the gas, brake, or clutch at the right time which prevents us from adapting to changing road conditions.
  • Tracking multiple stimuli—like traffic signs, vehicles, signals, lane markings, pedestrians, incoming phone calls, and the needs of passengers—can easily overwhelm drivers with diminished cognitive abilities.
  • Diminished arm strength can make it difficult to steer effectively and in a timely manner.
  • Neck and back pain can make it difficult to change lanes, make turns, and recognize potential hazards.
  • Hearing impairment can prevent one from yielding to emergency vehicles.
  • Medications to treat chronic conditions can create or compound impairment, impacting vital driving skills like depth perception, reaction time, and decision-making. Drowsiness is also a possibility.

We must proactively ensure the safety of ourselves and others by recognizing any decrease in our ability to drive safely and accept the observations and recommendations of loved ones, doctors, and Oklahoma caregivers.

If your senior loved one is no longer able to operate a vehicle safely, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our live-in and part-time caregivers in Oklahoma can provide transportation, run errands, offer mobility support, and help with routine tasks at home. Give us a call at 405-285-4191 to learn more.