Being able to drive has always meant freedom—ever since you were driving around town in the family care. And the good news is that you’re probably a much safer driver!
According to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), crash rates among older adults have been declining since 1997. In fact, older adults seem to be drawing ever closer to their stereotypically cautious middle-aged counter parts— which is a good new for seniors living in a city like Cincinnati where safe driving can seem like a necessary skill.
Even so, according to Anne McCartt, senior vice president at IIHS and a co-author of the study, despite this overall decline in crash rates, “crash rates per mile traveled begin to increase at age 70, and by age 80, drivers have ‘markedly higher’ crash rates than their middle-aged counterparts.”
Crash rates have gone down among older seniors, but they’re still comparably high for adults.
So, is it a myth that seniors should turn in their keys after retirement? Let's explore safe senior driving and when it may be a good idea to consider alternatives to driving.
Cincinnati seniors can take steps to keep driving safely long after retirement.
Consider time of day you'll be driving. Driving in the daylight may help improve your driving safety. With a greater ability to see your surroundings fully, your awareness will likely be sharper in the daytime than at night.
Recognize that speed matters. The IIHS posits that one reason seniors may have seen a decline in auto accidents is because they're driving more slowly. Consider how your speed is affecting your safety and the safety of others on the road—especially when it comes to Cincinnati’s rapidly changing weather conditions.
Test out an interactive tool. The AAA Roadwise Review was developed by senior health and driving experts to help older drivers self-evaluate based on visual, mental and physical assessments. It’s probably a good idea to conduct a self-evaluation at least once a year to determine your driver safety and to schedule a professional assessment if you’re concerned about your ability to drive. Trained specialists that are state licensed will perform a behind the wheel test to help determine areas you can improve your driving.
Keep your care well-tuned. It’s much easier to come to a sudden stop in a traffic jam or see the highway on a dark night if you keep up with car maintenance. So make sure you take your car in to be services regularly and be sure to keep your windows, head and break lights clean—especially in the winter!
Consider potential health factors before you get behind the wheel.
While it’s never an easy decision to give up your keys, there are certain health problems that can limit your ability to operate a vehicle safely.
- Any sudden changes in vision—like blurriness or double vision— not just vision loss.
- Chronic fatigue or narcolepsy
- Leg pain or spasms that may make quick movements like sudden stops difficult
- Neck stiffness or pain that limit your ability to turn your head
- Loss of arm or hand strength that may make it difficult for you to grip or turn the wheel
- Hearing loss or other auditory issues
- Sudden or ongoing side effects like fatigue, lightheadedness or vertigo from a medication
If you have been or suddenly develop any of these health factors, talk with your doctor as a doctor may be able to recommend occupational or physical therapies and other devices that can improve your driving experience and keep you safe behind the wheel.
Remember, you can always find alternatives to driving.
Giving up driving does not mean giving up your freedom to get around as you wish.
There are plenty of taxi and shuttle services that cater specifically to older adults, and public transportation in Cincinnati is safe, clean and easily accessible.