Hit the Road or Hand in the Keys?
Ageing is an all-encompassing inevitability. Along with the physical and emotional components of growing older, a number of varied decisions must be made regarding an individual’s safety and quality of life as they age. With an ever-increasing population of baby boomers aging into the senior category of 65+, the surge of older Americans hitting the road has prompted distressing statistics as in elder drivers being twice as likely to die in car crashes than middle-aged individuals.
With normal health and physical restrictions due to the aging process, many seniors cling to their ability to drive and refuse to recognize the safety hazards they may pose to themselves and others on the road, outliving their ability to drive safely by 7 to even 10 years. With over 40 million boomers on the road (a 50% increase from 1999) and many of them ill-equipped with the necessary reaction times, eyesight, and physical maneuvers to drive safely, an average of 16 older Americans are killed and 648 are injured each day from car accidents. With these staggering numbers, it is up to physicians, caregivers, rehab care clinic workers, geriatric services, family members, and even seniors themselves to assess their command of the skills required to drive safely.
Aging is not a process of stripped rights and the loss of individual freedoms, it is instead a time for evaluation, reflection and enjoying the “golden years” of a life well lived. From downsizing years of accumulated clutter, simplifying tiring daily responsibilities, making important health decisions, and knowing when to hand in the keys and let someone else do the driving, boomers can safely enjoy their senior years without stress and increased risk of injury.
When Should You Get Out of the Driver’s Seat?
Admitting that driving is becoming too taxing of a practice, one that millions accomplish each day is an extremely difficult and humbling process. However, following senior safety driving tips while you are still in control of a vehicle and keeping alert for signs that you are no longer safe to yourself and to others on the road are both necessary in keeping yourself removed from the creeping statistics of elderly car crashes/fatalities. With fatality rates 17 times higher than 25-64 year olds, driving beyond your body’s ability can have devastating consequences. Here’s how to spot the signs that it’s time to slip out of the driver’s seat and enjoy the pampering of someone else taking you to run errands and visit friends/family:
- Ask yourself, “do other drivers honk at me often, and I’m not sure why they are doing it?”
- Multiple accidents that are increasing in frequency as you age further, even if they are only “fender benders.”
- 80% of people in their 70s suffer from arthritis. Does it hurt to turn the wheel, press on the pedals or turn your neck to check for oncoming traffic, so much so that it hampers your ability to do them safely?
- Family, friends, doctors, or caregivers have stressed their worry about your driving.
- Trouble staying in lanes
- Cars, bicyclists and pedestrians seem to “appear out of nowhere.”
- Trouble maintaining constant speed/speed limits seems uncomfortable
- Getting lost frequently, even on roads you know.
- Frequently distracted while driving.
Sharing the road with individuals aged 16-65+ is a complicated process, as is when to both give licenses to potential drivers and take them away. Handing in the keys when driving becomes too taxing is not a defeatist action, it is instead an honorable preventative measure keeping both yourself and those around you safe. Aging is a time of reflection, streamlining priorities and possessions, and enjoying your retirement years in the comfort of a manageable living environment surrounded by friends and family. By knowing when to get out of the driver’s seat, you’re ensuring the aforementioned pleasant future and erasing that of one spent in a hospital bed – a result of a preventable and unnecessary aging-induced car crash.
Bio: Sally Phillips is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.