Too Old to Drive
- The Lost Art of Backing Up | Car Talk
Remember when you had to turn around to look behind you? Thanks in good measure to the jacked-up behemoths that began to roam the land en masse in the ‘Nineties, it’s become a largely futile practice.
Starting to Drive
There are rules for when you can get your driver's permit and take a test to get your official driver's license, but there is no rule for when you should stop driving.
I remember well the anticipation of getting my driver's license. After taking Driver's Ed, trying not to run over the cones of the practice course, I felt I was ready. I was given a permit that gave me permission to be a driver on the road IF I had a licensed driver with me and no one else. Feeling quite sure of myself, I decided to make a short jaunt around the block (by myself) to run some errands. Unfortunately, as I backed up I hit the car across the street and took out the front light and scratched it up a bit. That was my first accident and it definitely made me take driving seriously.
We all like to have our independence. Being able to drive a car and get around when and where we want is part of that. So when it comes time to accept the fact that we are not as sharp as we once were, it is good not to be stubborn and proud.
Putting Others At Risk
No matter how old you are, the main thing is responsible driving. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to see if your driving is safe:
- Are you easily distracted while driving?
- Have you received traffic warnings or tickets?
- Do other drivers often honk at you?
- Are you often frustrated and angry with others on the road?
- Do you get lost while driving in familiar places?
- Do you drive when you are tired?
Often the first signs that you are getting too old to drive are noticed by family members. They may have noticed that you do not pay attention to traffic signs. Perhaps you drive too slowly or too fast. One of the most common causes of accidents is when the driver fails to yield the right of way. Also, veering across lanes, failing to check blind spots, and not using turn signals can result in accidents.
According to John Hopkins Health Alerts, Drivers aged 84 to 89 make four times more mistakes than those 70 to 74 during a 12 mile road test.
Although we all hate to admit it, normal aging affects us physically, mentally, visually and other ways. The reason they cannot set a fixed age to stop driving is because aging affects us all differently. State laws require vision and sometimes written tests. It is really up to each of us to recognize our own limitations.
- Physical - If we have stiffness and joint pain, it can make it harder for us to adequately see behind us. It will also affect our reaction time so we cannot brake in time. As we grow weaker, it may be harder to grip the steering wheel, accelerate and brake. It is important that we stay active to be safe on the road. Chronic medical conditions can also impair driving.
- Mental - Brain function may lessen as we age and affect our judgement. Even healthy adults with safe driving records make more mistakes as they age. A yearly medical checkup should include evaluating your mental sharpness and physical health. Family members are usually the first to notice if you seem to have diminished mental capacity.
- Visual - Our vision weakens as a normal part of aging, and our peripheral vision is reduced. Our field of view narrows and makes it harder for us to see signals and traffic signs. Night vision may decrease and lights may glare more than before. Keep eyeglass prescriptions updated and make sure you wear the right glasses.
- Medication - Certain prescriptions can impair driving including painkillers, tranquilizers, antidepressants, decongestants, antihistamines and others.