Car Crash Deaths for People Over 70 Have Decreased
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the number of people age 70 and over who have been killed in crashes decreased by 18 percent over the past two decades. People in that age group were involved in fewer crashes per mile traveled, too.
One reason for this good news is that cars are safer than ever before. Side-impact protection, including side airbags, have contributed to better safety for older drivers. More people are able to walk away from accidents which would have killed them in the past.
Another factor in the better driving outcomes is that many older people are healthier and are able to function better than people of the same age a few decades ago.
How to Maintain Your Driving Ability
Despite the reduction in car crash deaths, it is still important for senior citizens to do everything they can to maintain their driving skills at optimal levels in order to keep their drivers' licenses. Below are a few ways to do that:
Review the Warnings on Your Medications: Do you take any medications which make you drowsy or warn against operating machinery after taking it? Check with your doctor and find out if those medications can be taken before bed rather than at a time when you might need to drive your car. You may also want to ask if there is an alternative drug which will make you less groggy. Your doctor might also suggest that you avoid certain situations, such as driving at night.
Take a Driving Course: We all need to brush up on our driving skills and recent changes to the laws in our state. You may find it helpful to periodically take a class designed specifically for older drivers. AARP offers these courses throughout the United States. Your insurance company may even give you a discount for taking it. You can find more information about these classes at: aarp.org/drive
Purchase a Safer Car: You can keep yourself safer when you drive if you upgrade your older vehicle to a newer one which has a rearview camera to help you see while backing up, automatic emergency braking, collision warning systems, and blind spot or lane-departure warning systems. All of these features are designed to help you avoid collisions.
Hire a Consultant if You have Become Nervous or too Scared to Drive: A Driver Rehabilitation Specialist can help you feel more secure when you are behind the wheel. They can assess your current skills, offer advice, and suggest vehicle modifications which could make driving more comfortable for you. In some cases, you can get a senior discount or your health insurance may cover the cost of the evaluation.
When to Stop Driving
Eventually, nearly everyone will have to give up driving. When should you turn in your car keys? Without question, you should stop driving if you have uncorrected cataracts, severe arthritis which makes it difficult to control the car, or if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. You should also consider giving up your car keys if you have severe sleep apnea which leaves you exhausted during the day, or if you are prone to seizures or other health conditions which can come on suddenly, such as sudden drops in your blood pressure or blood sugar levels.
You should also stop driving when you have too much difficulty reading the street signs, if driving makes you feel anxious or stressed, or if you cannot look over your shoulder to change lanes. You should also do some soul searching about your ability to drive when your friends and family members begin to express concern about being in the car while you drive.
Until you reach this point in your life, follow the suggestions above to continue to drive and enjoy your freedom as long as possible.
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