I have always been rather philosophical about older drivers giving up their keys at a certain age, but as that “certain age” approaches, philosophical thoughts go out the window. Newspapers are filled with dire predictions about what will happens as older drivers clog the roadways. Every once in awhile someone sees fit to give us a break and it is rather uplifting.
The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, February 29, 2012) featured an articled by Sue Shellenbarger about safe drivers over 70. The author focused on preventive measures that senior drivers can take to assure that they can keep their keys as long as possible. In order to avoid “the talk” from concerned family members, seniors need to demonstrate that they are capable of making informed decisions about things that concern them. Getting older does not mean that your driving days are over, but it does mean that it is time to evaluate, maintain, and improve safe driving skills. Many 70 year olds look and act much younger than their years while others do not, and this needs to be taken into consideration. The author pointed out that many older drivers can and are taking preventive measures in order to drive responsibly.
No one will deny that reduced range of motion, arthritic joints, trouble with night vision and glare, and decreased fine motor skill do make life challenging. These abilities change at different rates for different people, so it unconscionable to assume that all drivers of a certain age have deficits or are unsafe. It is comforting to know that there are ways to counteract a good many of these difficulties and maintain safe driving capabilities. Safe driving is not age specific. It is a function of person, environment, and vehicle factors.
Seniors actually practice many more safe driving behaviors than people in other age groups. Informed seniors who are aware of their changing physical capabilities can regulate themselves by making a few adjustments. For example: by limiting night driving, avoiding bad weather conditions and rush hour traffic, a good many problems can be avoided. This is good sense at any age.
Population trends tell us that older adults make up a respectable percentage of the worlds population. Like it or not, this tells us that people are going to want to drive and take of themselves for a longer period of time. Recognizing that aging and chronic illnesses may bring changes in vision, cognition and motor skills is the first step toward making safety a priority. This is something that each individual has to do themselves. Monitor your own driving skills and capabilities, recognize any impairment that you may have, and make adjustments. Help is available and modern technology is on your side. Safe driving courses are available for older drivers, and car assessment programs are available to help seniors modify their vehicles to adapt to changing needs. Studies have identified problem areas and designed new products. Thicker steering wheels, keyless entry and ignition, power mirrors and larger dashboard controls are only a few of the marvelous inventions designed to help you. The best features are those will accommodate your particular limitations or needs. Make a point to have your car assessed and do whatever it takes to make you a better driver. You will know when it is time to give up your keys and hopefully you will do so graciously, but in the meantime drive safely.