Seniors can be very safe drivers. They have years of experience behind the wheel and they are less likely to take part in dangerous driving or risky behaviors. That said, seniors do face additional challenges. They may develop medical conditions which affect their mobility driving ability, for example. The roads and even technology in cars may have also changed significantly since the they last received formal driving instruction.
For many families, it’s a difficult conversation to have: when should mom or dad give up their car keys? For many seniors, giving up their car keys is a serious worry because it affects their independence. If you as a family are having this discussion, there are a few things you can do to help keep your senior family member safer:
In Hollywood, Miami and other South Florida communities, golf is a very popular activity. The warm weather allows for golfing year-round and the region has some of the best greens in the country. Golf carts are a part of the game and with a large population of seniors in South Florida, golf carts are often used to get around a course.
However, golf carts are not just used at the golf course. In many cases, residents use these vehicles to get around. In fact, street-legal golf carts are permitted by federal laws on streets with speed limits of 35 mph. Putting golf carts, even street-legal ones, on the road with much larger vehicles which are allowed to drive much faster can be dangerous.
This year, Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, gave up his driver’s license after getting into a car accident at age 97. When his news made headlines, it started many discussions about aging and driving safety. If you live in Hollywood or anywhere in South Florida, you may wonder whether you can continue to drive safely as you get older. Or, you may be worried about an older driver who seems to be struggling.
While many older drivers continue to drive safely and while as a group seniors have a lower rate of accidents, statistically, than young adults in many studies, there is no doubt that some of the health concerns associated with getting older can negatively impact driving. Decreased mobility due to osteoporosis and other conditions or declining vision due to age can impact the ability to safely drive a car.
Seniors tend to be safer drivers in many ways, as they are less likely to speed when compared with other age groups, and may be less likely to drive drunk or engage in risky behaviors. Nevertheless, seniors also have higher risks of crashes when compared with other age groups, in part due to changes in road conditions and in part due to age-related conditions.
Someone who has been driving since they were 16 and is now a senior has been driving for decades. The world, traffic, cars, and the pace of driving have all changed significantly in that time. In addition, seniors may be subject to age-related macular degeneration, vision problems, mobility issues, dementia, and other conditions which can negatively impact driving and which can be a higher risk with age.
Driver rehabilitation professionals in Hollywood and across Florida help people with different abilities drive a car safely. If you have suffered a serious injury after a car accident in Hollywood or your community and now face a permanent injury such as an amputation, head injury, spinal cord injury, or any injury, driver rehabilitation can help you determine how you can get safely back to driving.
Driver rehabilitation professionals are also essential in helping senior drivers drive safely, even as their physical condition changes. Senior drivers and other drivers who suffer from physical conditions such as arthritis, vision problems, and other mobility problems can work with rehabilitation professionals to find solutions to help them maintain independence.
Elderly drivers have some habits that can help them avoid injury and car accidents. According to statistics, older drivers have more experience behind the wheel and are less likely to drink and drive than many younger drivers. In addition, senior drivers are statistically more likely to obey the speed limit and wear their seat belts.
Unfortunately, senior drivers do face some challenges when driving. They can have a higher risk of car accidents when compared with other age groups. They are also more likely to be seriously or fatally injured in a car accident. Age-related conditions such as osteoporosis can mean more fractures and more serious fractures while other medical conditions can complicate car accident injuries.
Elderly drivers can be safe behind the wheel, but senior drivers statistically have more accidents per mile driven than younger adult drivers. In fact, only teen drivers have more accidents per mile driven – and their accidents are less likely to be fatal when compared with crashes involving the elderly.
If you have a loved one, you may worry that they’ll be in a car accident in Hollywood or their home community. You may realize that any health conditions they have may make it harder for them to recover quickly, and you may genuinely be worried about their welfare. But how can you have a conversation about driving skills and safety with a parent or other senior?
Many elderly drivers are completely safe behind the wheel and are able to maintain their independence and drive safely for many years. In fact, some researchers argue that older drivers are safer than younger drivers because they take fewer risks, are statistically less likely to drink and drive, and may speed less often.
Unfortunately, not all older drivers are safe on the road. As we get older, certain age-related conditions can affect our ability to drive. For example, macular degeneration and other vision problems can come with age and can affect the ability to see correctly enough to drive. In addition, cognitive skills may decline, especially with conditions such as dementia. Mobility issues can also be affected by age-related arthritis, osteoporosis, and other conditions. Even heart conditions can affect driving ability, especially if they put the driver risk of heart attacks. In addition, there are medications that some elderly Hollywood and Florida residents use for various conditions may make them dizzy, confused, or may otherwise affect their driving ability.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, senior citizens across the country account for 17% of fatal pedestrian accidents and 14% of all traffic accident deaths, even though they amount to only 9% of the population. While some claim that elderly drivers are unsafe on the roads, though, many studies show that drivers under the age of 85 are in fact safer than teen drivers. However, according to Carnegie Mellon University researchers and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers 85 and over have four times the fatal accident rate of teen drivers.
The issue, most experts agree, is not age but rather cognitive function and physical ability. The problem is that all drivers age differently. Some may remain sharp and physically active well into their 80s and beyond – including staying safer behind the wheel – while other motorists may start to experience dementia and other dangerous conditions well before their 70th birthday. It becomes a huge challenge for law enforcement and legislators to find a way to prevent car accidents in Miami and other cities by keeping unsafe drivers off the road while not limiting the freedoms of safe drivers.
In some cases, the decision to limit or take away one’s ability to drive is highly fraught. Families may want to prevent a loved one from being in a serious car or truck accident in Miami but may not be sure when to act. Or, they may not want to argue with a loved one and may hope that doctors or law enforcement make the decision about driving safety.
A big problem for families is that it is not just about driving and about preventing traffic accidents in Miami and Florida. It is about independence. Elderly loved ones who can no longer drive may have a harder time getting around and taking care of everyday tasks such as grocery shopping. They may face more isolation and a declining quality of life, which medical experts agree leads to declines in mental and physical health.
According to safety experts, there are a number of warning signs that families may need to step in and discuss hanging up the keys of an elderly driver:
•Signs of minor accidents, such as scrapes or dings on the car or an elderly loved one’s property
•Instances where an elderly driver has gotten lost, even in places they know
•Vision difficulties that make it hard to see the road signs, the road, and other vehicles
•A number of near-misses or minor accidents
•Difficulty estimating gaps in traffic at exit ramps and at intersections
•An elderly loved one getting confused while driving or experiencing road rage, causing aggressive driving or honking from other motorists
•Slow response times
•Difficulty using the gas and brake pedals – confusing the two, for example, or having a difficult time moving from one to the other
•Problems focusing on driving
•An elderly loved one getting multiple warnings or tickets from law enforcement
•Difficulty physically moving around to check blind spots
Of course, everyone has a bad experience driving or some difficulty once in a while, but if you notice one or more of these signs in yourself or a loved one, consider limiting driving and visiting a doctor and a driver-improvement or driving rehabilitation class. A doctor can help determine whether there are health barriers to safe driving while a qualified driver rehabilitation course can help a motorist drive more safely even with physical challenges.