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Objective Ways to Assess an Older Adult's Driving Skills

The topic of older driver safety can be contentious. There’s a persistent myth that seniors are to blame for the majority of accidents. In reality, teen drivers are up to four times more likely to cause a crash than older adults. Male teenage drivers are especially dangerous.

With that said, it is important to recognize that aging does cause undeniable physical changes, like slower reflexes, vision problems, and a loss of flexibility. Each of these can make driving more difficult for older adults. Being able to safely and objectively assess your driving skills or a senior loved one’s is vital.

In honor of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, celebrated during the first week of December every year, here are some tips for assessing fitness for driving.

Objective Ways to Assess Senior Driving Skills

Age can’t be the only factor used to determine if you or an aging parent is safe behind the wheel of a car. While aging does cause physical changes, not everyone ages the same. An 85-year-old senior who is active and healthy may be a safer driver than a 65-year-old who lives with a chronic health condition or vision loss.

There is, however, evidence to show that age does impact senior driver safety. Fatal accidents rise at around the age of 75 and spike significantly at the age of 80. Here are a few objective ways to evaluate your own or an older loved one’s fitness for driving:

1. Check the condition of the vehicle: Your vehicle can tell a story. Physical damage may be a sign that you are having problems with depth perception or slowed reflexes. The same is true for dents and scratches on mirrors and bumpers. An older driver may not realize they are bumping into things.

2. Conduct a ride-along: Have a family member ride along with you. Ask them to objectively evaluate how sharp your driving skills are. If you are a concerned adult child, encourage your senior loved one to allow you to tag along. Red flags are an older adult who is overly anxious or too confident. Not adhering to posted speed limits is another warning sign.

3. Take a driving test: There are a variety of senior-driver safety evaluations you can take online. One of note is the American Automobile Association (AAA) free self-rating tool, Drivers 65 Plus. You can also work with a driving specialist in your local community. These are occupational therapists who assess skills and make recommendations for improvements. Find one in the American Occupational Therapy Association’s driving specialist database.

Transportation Services at Clearwater Living

If you or an older loved one decides the time has come to give up driving, a move to a senior living community might be an ideal solution. Many offer transportation for group outings, errands, and physician appointments. At most senior housing communities, including Clearwater Living, transportation is among the most popular services.

Call the Clearwater Living community nearest you to inquire about our transportation program and how it helps residents maintain their independence!

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