04262017Headline:

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis
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The Elderly: To Drive or Not to Drive, That is the Question

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More and more older people are on the roads these days, but it’s important to know that getting older does not automatically turn people into bad drivers. Many of us continue to drive safely as we age, but there are changes that can affect our driving as age sneaks up on us. If you have an older driver in your family, you may be concerned with his or her safety because older drivers have a higher risk of dying from a car accident.

A study of intersection accidents conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that 58 of accidents involving drivers age 80 and older were caused when that driver failed to yield at the intersection. The percentage for drivers age 70-79 was 37%. Only 26% of drivers age 35-54 failed to yield.

Researchers who study how age affects driving skills say that driving in intersections is especially challenging for older drivers. The time it takes the brain to process information and react to it increases as we age. This makes it harder for drivers to judge speed, distance, and timing. It may also be more difficult for an older driver to turn his head enough to see traffic in all directions. In addition, many elderly drivers have vision problems. For every year after age 65, the risk of a left-turn accident increases by eight percent.

Signs that your loved one may need to give up driving:

  • A noticeable decrease in confidence while driving
  • Driving too fast or slow for traffic conditions
  • Failure to notice or pay attention to traffic signs
  • Failure to stop at stop sign or red light
  • Trouble with turns, especially left turns
  • Easily distracted while driving
  • Agitation or irritation when driving
  • Confusion at exits
  • Getting lost more frequently or getting lost in familiar places
  • Increase in tickets, moving violations, or warnings
  • Scrapes or dents on the car, mailbox or garage
  • Car accidents
  • Improper signaling
  • Crossing center line and difficulty maintaining lane position
  • Hitting curbs
  • Stopping in traffic for no reason
  • Difficulty turning to see when backing up
  • Other drivers often honk horns
  • Delayed response in unexpected situations

Although some elderly drivers may realize they are losing their driving skills, they may continue to drive because they see driving as an important part of their independence. Let your loved one know that you are concerned about their safety and offer other transportation options so your loved one can get around independently.