The natural process of aging can affect your vision, hearing, reaction time and mental fitness. As a senior driver, that means it also can affect your driving abilities and even increase risk of a traffic crash. Since these changes can occur very slowly, you’ll want to evaluate then early and often – before putting yourself and others at risk. You can still be active, however. Dealing with these mind and body changes and adhering to a few simple guidelines can make you a wiser senior driver.
- Vision – A driver’s eyesight is critical in preventing car crashes, because nearly all the sensory input you need to drive a car comes from visual cues. If your eyesight is diminished, so is your ability to drive safely. This is especially important to senior drivers.
- Hearing – According to the National Institutes of Health, hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. Hearing loss can be dangerous, especially when in or near traffic. For example, the inability to hear high-pitched tones, such as sirens from emergency response vehicles, especially among background noise like horns or railroad warnings, can put you and other drivers at risk.
- Reaction time – Even if you have excellent judgment while driving, it may be challenging at times to integrate information from several sources at once. This can slow driver reaction time and inhibit safe driving in dangerous situations. It’s also possible that pain or stiffness in muscles or joints could make it difficult to react quickly during emergencies.
- Medical conditions and medications – If not managed properly, medical conditions can increase your crash risk. Some of the most common conditions known to affect safe driving are impaired vision, physical limitations, dementia, diabetes, seizures and sleep disorders. Even if you have one or more of these medical conditions, if you work closely with your doctor, you often can continue safe driving.
- Mind and cognition – As you get older, your brain needs more time to process information, making it more difficult to ignore distractions. The good news is that mature judgment, years of driving experience and good driving habits often can help senior drivers compensate for some diminished cognitive abilities. Cognition is the ability to remember information like locations or destinations and recognize and respond to things such as traffic signs and pavement markings. When driving, it involves being able to focus and make sound decisions in a hurry to avoid a crash. For more great information and resources, visit seniordriving.aaa.com.