As a senior, you are considered a safer driver than your younger counterparts since you likely obey speed limits and traffic signs and are less likely to drink and drive. However, as your age increases, so does the risk of being involved in a fatal car accident.
According to AAA, drivers 65 or older are almost 20 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than drivers ages 25 to 64. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states nearly 7,000 people at least 65 years old died in traffic accidents in 2018. Seniors are more likely to succumb to the injuries caused by car accidents because they are typically more fragile and have pre-existing conditions that complicate their recovery.
While maintaining your independence is important to you, you should know the signs that tell you should hang up your driving gloves. There are many signs your family and friends can pay attention to, but these are five that you can acknowledge if they were to occur.
1. Vision and hearing impairment
Vision and hearing issues are typical with advanced age. You may notice yourself being more sensitive to headlights, missing traffic signs, or not hearing emergency vehicles as they approach. Another sign that your vision could be affecting your driving is if you have to slam on your brakes more because your depth perception has worsened, and you can’t tell how far the stopped vehicle ahead is.
Fortunately, these issues may not be the sole reason for you to hang up your driving gloves. If you’re able to get glasses or hearing aids that improve your vision and hearing loss, you may be able to continue driving as usual. However, if not, and your vision isn’t completely compromised, consider driving only in daylight hours and areas you are familiar with.
2. Mobilities issues
Modernized vehicles have lessened the strain driving puts on your body. With blind-spot monitors, automatic transmissions, and power steering, mobility issues are near the problem as they used to be when driving. However, certain conditions can still make it harder to operate a vehicle safely.
For example, arthritis, carpal tunnel, and joint inflexibility can make changing lanes, making turns, and pressing pedals much more difficult. According to AAA, 50% and 80% of middle-aged drivers and drivers 70 and older, respectively, suffer from conditions such as these.
3. Unmemorable dents and scrapes
You may start to notice more unexplainable dents and scrapes on your car. If you’re seeing them often and can’t remember how they got there, it’s possible you caused them, and either didn’t notice at the time or forgot about them shortly after. Either way, this may be a sign to hang up your driving gloves.
Of course, some dents and scraps could be caused by other drivers and at no fault of your own. However, if they’re popping up more frequently, it’s safe to say they aren’t all caused by other drivers.
4. More frequent traffic violations
Have you ever been driving and drive through a red light without realizing it until you’ve passed the intersection? Or have you ever accidentally started driving down the wrong way of a one-way street? If so, this may be a sign you should stop driving.
Whether you’re caught committing traffic violations or not, more frequent violations are cause for concern among seniors. Frequent violations could result from lack of attention, impaired vision, or confusion, all of which can be dangerous behind the wheel.
5. Increased nervousness while driving
It’s normal to have a little anxiety when driving through new cities or on unfamiliar roads. However, if you find yourself growing more and more nervous about driving in general, you may want to reconsider driving at all. A nervous driver is a dangerous driver.
On the other hand, if you’re only nervous about driving on highways or unknown roads, you may be able to get by with just driving familiar routes and only driving during the daytime. If you’re still able to navigate familiar roads during the day safely, you should still be able to enjoy your independence.
Things to know when driving as a senior
Increasing age is not a reason to stop driving. However, many of the common ailments associated with older age can be. If you notice signs telling you to hang up your driving gloves, consider talking with a family member or friend about helping you get from point A to point B. Your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may also have Senior Driver Improvement courses you can take for free. Contact your local DMV to see if these are available in your area.