Driving safety is essential, especially during the holidays when many are on the road traveling, partying, and visiting with family.
The time frame between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is the most dangerous on US roads.
This is the perfect time to remember national safety Tie a Red Ribbon On for Safety campaign this week as MADD celebrates 30 years protecting us and our loved ones.
According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), the red ribbons represent drivers’ pledges to drive safe, sober and buckled up, reminding other drivers and passengers to do the same.
As part of the celebration, we want to review some tips that will help caregivers evaluate whether your senior is safe to keep driving.
Senior Safety on the Road
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) tells us that the risk of injury or death behind the wheel or in the car rises with age.
Here are some chilling statistics that bear that out:
- An average of 586 older adults are injured every day in crashes.
- Older Americans are involved in some 15% of all traffic deaths.
- In 2012, more than 5,560 older adults were killed in motor vehicle crashes.
- In 2012, more than 214,000 older adults were injured in car accidents.
- This amounts to 15 older adults killed and 586 injured in crashes on average every day.
- Fatal crash rates increase starting at ages 70‒74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older.
- Older Americans were involved in almost 20% of all pedestrian deaths.
- Most accidents occur during the daytime on weekdays and engage others in the mayhem.
Age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes, may affect some older adults’ driving abilities.
We have all heard horror stories of the senior who drove into the bus stop or went the wrong way on the freeway.
But just because loved ones are aging doesn’t mean they are unsafe or have to stop driving.
Keeping Safety First
As our seniors age, there are steps that they can take to improve their safety and prevent accidents from happening.
Here are some considerations that family caregivers can ask themselves and their seniors to help them stay safe on the road or decide when it is time to hand over the keys.
- How is their vision? Can they read road signs, see someone crossing the street, or see the lines in the road? Have their vision checked and urge them to wear corrective glasses keeping the prescription up to date as needed. Don’t wear sunglasses at night or frames that block your vision. Position in your seat in order to can see 10 feet in front of the car.
- How is their physical function? Can they turn their head to see behind and around them? Can they move their feet and legs to apply the pedal controls? Can they fasten their own seat belts whenever they are in the car?
- How is their attention span? Do their medications make them sleepy or dizzy? Can they react quickly to all the distractions on the road?
- Do they get lost while driving? Have they been stopped by police for erratic driving or been involved in a fender bender?
- Do they always wear their seatbelt?
- Do they drive while under the influence of alcohol?
- Has the doctor suggested your senior stop driving?
Caregivers and senior loved ones should pay attention to the signs.
Lowering Your Senior’s Risk
The CDC offers these tips for older adults to be safer when in a car:
- Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
- Asking your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines–both prescription and over-the counter–to reduce side effects and interactions.
- Having eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
- Driving during daylight and in good weather.
- Finding the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.
- Planning your route before you drive.
- Leaving a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
- Avoiding distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting, and eating.
- Considering potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend or using public transit, that you can use to get around.
Your senior can learn strategies to improve their driving and thereby protecting themselves and others at Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully.
There are options for seniors who are no longer safe to drive such as public transportation, ride sharing such as Uber or Lyft, senior services transportation, taxi cabs and family or friends transporting them where they need to go.
Losing independence that comes with driving is difficult for many seniors to accept but, if they are unsafe, it is the right thing to do for them and others on the road.
Let’s all tie on a red ribbon for safety during the holidays!