If you are over 60 years old, driving can be more dangerous than you think. And the problem is not only in various eye diseases, the frequency of which increases sharply with the age …
How age affects driving?
Some believe that senior car enthusiasts drive more safely than young people do, because they have a great driving experience, they are not as prone to high-speed driving, avoid to drive after drinking alcohol, etc. However, according to some studies, despite a safe driving style and a smaller percentage of the total accidents, the elderly often get into car accidents in the most ordinary, uncomplicated situations, such as at intersections.
But how the age-related changes affect the ability to drive a car?
• Eyesight: The eyesight is 95% guarantee of safety while driving a vehicle. With age, because of various ophthalmic diseases or as an evidence of physiological aging processes, the visual acuity decreases, the peripheral (side) vision gets worse, and sensitivity to glare increases.
After the age 50 , almost every second person has the initial changes in the eye lens, i.e., the development of cataract starts, which is manifested in decreased visual acuity, blurred images, sometimes in double vision.
Dangerous in terms of driving is glaucoma – a disease, one of the main manifestations of which is the narrowing of the visual fields, herewith the acuity of the direct vision, which is checked by an ophthalmologist during a routine examination, is in the early stages quite high.
With age, the accommodative abilities of the eyes are reduced – the ability to see clearly at various distances.
The dark adaptation also descends – a senior driver requires much greater level of illumination than a young one.
• Hearing: with age hearing is also worsening, which, of course, complicates the driver’s ability to hear the sound of brakes, horns, sirens.
• Muscles and joints: the decrease in joints mobility and stiffness in movements is noted in the elderly. They often have such diseases as degenerative spine disease, arthritis, degenerative joint disease. Insufficient movement reduces the ability to observe the traffic and pedestrians, to perform certain maneuvers; it’s more difficult to cope with the steering and pedals.
• Perception of information: the reaction rate decreases with age significantly, it is more difficult to do several things at the same time, for example, to perceive the information and to take the necessary actions, concentration of attention abates. Many diseases, such as a stroke, for example, can significantly affect the speed of reaction, concentration, capacity for coordinated actions.
• The impact of medicines: Seniors take quite many different medications. Some medications have side effects such as blurring of vision, tinnitus, decrease in concentration, disturbances of coordination, etc. Upon receipt of such drugs driving can be extremely dangerous.
• Chronic conditions: Any deterioration of health caused by one or another disease dramatically increases the risk of a car accident. Shortness of breath, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, changes in blood sugar level of the driver, etc. – all this can lead to serious consequences.
Tips for drivers over 60 years old
However, the number of drivers who are 60 and above is increasing worldwide. The ability to drive a car, that is, to lead an active, independent way of life, significantly improves the quality of life and self-esteem of an elderly person.
How to protect yourself and others – several recommendations for drivers over 60:
• Do not use cell phone while driving. Talking on a cell phone while driving is not recommended at any age – it’s distracting, it slows the rate of reaction. The perception and processing of information of senior drivers is reduced. There is no need to make the situation worse.
• Be especially careful at intersections, particularly making the left turn. A large percentage of accidents involving senior drivers are happening at intersections.
• Avoid driving at night, especially on unfamiliar routes. If you still have to drive the car in the dark, avoid the low illuminated streets; use the special glasses with antiglare coating, so as not to be blinded by oncoming cars.
• Try to assess correctly your capabilities, focusing on the reactions of other people. Concerns of your relatives, resentment of other drivers, warnings of car inspectors, and your well-being – all this combined will help you to decide for how long, when, and where you can drive a car. If you doubt your abilities, shorten as much as possible the trip, plan an optimal route and time of drive in advance, drive only under good visibility conditions, keep good distance relative to other vehicles.
• Have annual examinations of your eyesight and hearing. Early detection of eye diseases can help to preserve your vision and allow you to continue driving.
• If you receive a new medication, carefully read what side effects it may have. Avoid driving within the first days of taking the medication, until you are sure in normal medicine acceptability.
• You may also take a refresher course, which are really numerous now, and which are really helpful for seniors.
Take care of your body, maintain physical and mental activity. Awareness of your capabilities is the key to your safety and confident driving!