In American society, cars are more than just transportation – they represent freedom. As teenagers, we are eager to get our licenses because they equal independence, and just the thought of having to give up that autonomy can cause major panic in senior citizens. In an effort to navigate issues associated with senior safety and mobility, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) annually observes the first week of December as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.
From December 7 to December 11, 2015, AOTA aims to raise awareness among older adults as well as their families and caregivers about ways to reduce risk factors and exercise safe driving behaviors.
As we age, our driving skills are often affected by normal changes in physical, cognitive, and sensory functions. Examples include decreased vision, slowed motor reflexes, and impaired hearing. However, these changes do not automatically have to mean total loss of driving ability. Simply recognizing that they can happen and being willing to make adjustments can go a long way. Perhaps you make sure to not drive at night or in bad weather, or you avoid fast-moving highway traffic and stick only to familiar roads.
Driving safety can also be greatly increased by having a car that meets your needs. There are many technologies that can benefit mature drivers, including:
- Smart headlights
- Emergency response systems
- Reverse monitoring systems
- Blind-spot warnings
- Lane departure warnings
- Vehicle stability control
- Assistive parking systems
- Voice activated systems
- Crash mitigation systems
- Drowsy driver alerts.
Additionally, it’s important to listen with an open mind to the concerns of our loved ones. One of the first steps in addressing older driver safety is having a nonthreatening conversation in which the emphasis is placed on a broad awareness of the solutions rather than a narrow focus on the problems. While there are self-evaluation tools available to measure driving fitness, a neutral third-party professional opinion may be preferable. An occupational therapist or a certified driver rehabilitation specialist can assess a person’s overall ability to operate a vehicle safely and to provide rehabilitation, if necessary. They can identify individuals’ unique challenges and find strategies that will help them stay connected to their communities.
When it becomes clear that driving is no longer an option, it’s essential to remember that alternatives do exist and there is no reason to remain housebound. Most communities have some sort of public transportation or paid private services. Coordinating with friends and family members, ride-sharing, medical transport services, and shuttle buses are also possibilities. Of course, adjusting to life without a car will be challenging at first, but there are benefits to keep in mind, such as saving money on car ownership costs.
The best predictor of driving ability is performance.
Having a series of minor crashes or near misses, getting lost on familiar roads, or being spoken to by loved ones about driving behavior are all signs that a person’s capacity for safe driving is diminishing. No one wants to relinquish driving privileges, but safety must come first.
If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the personal injury
attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm
. We have many years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Based in Pikeville, KY, we proudly serve communities throughout the Bluegrass State. Contact us by calling 606-437-4488 or filling out our online form.