(Family Features) Since January 2011, nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, joining the fastest growing age group in the nation. According to a recent American Automobile Association (AAA) survey of that booming population, nearly half of seniors worry about losing their freedom and mobility when the time comes for them to transition from driver to passenger.
From understanding how vision changes affect one’s ability to drive at night, to researching the effects certain medications can have on one’s driving ability, it’s important to get the facts about driving for seniors. Use these tips from AAA to ensure you and your family members are driving safely:
Evaluate your driving.
It’s important to take time to consider one’s driving “health” and habits. For instance, when was the last time you had an eye exam? You can take a Driver 65 Plus self-assessment at www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com to get a clear picture of just how good your driving skills really are, and get suggestions for improvement.
Be aware of how aging affects driving habits.
Seniors may not notice the gradual ways that age can impact their driving ability. For instance, by age 60, your eyes need three times the amount of light to see properly as they do for people 20 years-old, which means it’s more difficult to see at night. Likewise, one-third of Americans suffer from hearing loss by age 65, which means senior drivers may be unable to hear high-pitched noises such as emergency response vehicles.
Reaction times can be slower for seniors as well. But preventative measures can go a long way:
• Seniors should increase the distance between their car and the car in front of them, to allow more time to react to sudden braking.
• Eliminating distractions in the vehicle and avoiding heavy traffic can also help seniors identify emergency sirens.
Find the right fit.
Many seniors may not realize that their car may not be optimally adjusted to fit them. For example, sitting too close to the steering wheel can injury, should the airbag deploy during a collision.
• Make sure you have at least 10 to 12 inches between your chest and the steering wheel.
• When seated properly, you should be able to see the ground in front of your car within 12 to 15 feet and 1 1/2 car widths left and right.
Talk with your doctor and pharmacist.
Ensure that the medications you take — both prescription and over-the-counter — will not impair your ability to drive safely. In addition, make sure all your medications go through one pharmacy, so the pharmacists on staff can better assess any potential drug interactions.
To help older drivers and their families deal with driving and mobility challenges related to aging, AAA has launched a new website (www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com) to make a comprehensive suite of tools and resources available at the click of a button. From an Ask-the-Expert feature to Roadwise Review — an online screening tool that measures functional abilities linked to crash risk — and more, all of the features are free to site visitors. The site also offers links and resources to help families find other means of transportation when their loved one is no longer able to drive safely.