I have older parents and they drive. I’m glad they drive because their driving allows them to continue to volunteer and be active. And frankly because if they didn’t drive, then I would have to drive them. It’s important that they can drive because they live in Pierce County and we don’t have a lot of transportation options even though my parents live within a mile or two from a transit hub. I’m not sure that I believe most places in the United States have real transportation options but I honestly believe that transportation options in Washington rank quite low even in the bigger cities. Our communities like to place all their eggs in one basket and then when budgets get tight, the baskets get increasingly smaller. The result is that my parents can take a bus as long as they can get to the transportation hub still. But they may not be able to and then the hub might as well be on Mars. Without sidewalks, the route to the hubs can be dangerous for people walking especially in poor weather or at night. Some parts of the distance between them and the hub aren’t well lit either.
Of course some older drivers are quite capable of never giving up the keys but at some point many of us will and should give up the keys. One reason for this has very little to do with our ability or inability to drive. The fact is that older people don’t recuperate as well from accident injuries as younger people. In 2012 for instance, almost 20 percent of all traffic fatalities were amongst people 65 and older. In addition, some medications contribute to the dangers of driving, either by affecting driving outright or by making older people more susceptible to injury.
Staying safe while driving includes taking some precautions. Those include making sure you’re wearing your seatbelt, avoiding driving when visibility, weather or driving conditions are compromised, avoiding driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including medications), having your doctor or pharmacist review your medications and reducing the possibility of them affecting your driving performance, getting your vision checked at least annually, and cutting down on distractions such as cell phone use and eating while driving.
Everyone forgets little things over time or we allow bad habits to develop. It’s good to revisit your driving habits every few years. AARP has a driver course to help you brush up on your skills. Taking a refresher course allows you to get you back to your best driving.
If you are looking for additional resources for older drivers, look to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for some tips to help you stay safe.