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Prevention Of Driving Hazard In The Older Persons

Introduction

For the older persons, the risk of injuring themselves and others while driving is higher than that for a younger driver because of various age-associated changes and conditions that are common among the elderly. Driving can sometimes be challenging for older persons as they will likely to notice that certain physical changes can affect their mobility such as turning their head to look for oncoming traffic or stopping their car safely.

Who are the older persons most at risk for driving hazard?

  • Those older persons who have noticed any of the following disabilities:
    • Age-related declines in vision and hearing
    • Age-related declines in cognitive functioning/ forgetfulness which can affect the ability to reason and remember
    • Physical changes e.g. significant impairment of the neck or trunk movement
    • Poor motor coordination
    • Slow motion/ bradykinesia
  • Those older drivers whose family member’s or friend’s concern about their driving ability

Those older drivers at risk should get a formal assessment of driving ability and can be done by an occupational therapist. However, a health care provider must be sensitive when recommending driving cessation because such a recommendation can affect the autonomy of the older persons.

How can older driver prevent injuries and deaths?

Older drivers can take several steps to prevent driving hazard and stay safe on the road, including:

  • Exercising regularly to increase physical strength and joints flexibility
  • To get doctor or pharmacist to review the medications regularly in order to reduce the side effects and drugs interactions
  • Having the eyes checked by an eye doctor regularly and wear glasses with corrective lenses as required
  • Schedule regular hearing tests because impaired hearing can impair older drivers’ ability to hear an approaching vehicle or train
  • Driving when the conditions are the safest e.g. during daylight and in good weather
  • Use seat belt regularly while driving
  • Finding the safest route and place with easy parking
  • Planning ahead the route before starting the journey
  • Keeping a safe distance with the car in front
  • Avoiding distractions in the car e.g. listening to a loud radio, talking on the hand phone, texting messages or eating
  • Understand the physical limitations and make any necessary adjustments e.g. assistive devices to help older persons to drive safety

For those older persons with chronic conditions that might impact driving safety, considering alternatives to driving by themselves, e.g. carpooling with a friend or using public transport

Summary

In older persons, various age-associated changes and conditions can affect the older drivers’ ability to drive safely. However, several tips can be taken by the older drivers to cope with these changes and adjust their driving habits so that they can stay safe on the road as long as possible.

References

  1. James TP. Prevention of Injuries in the Elderly.  (http://www.merckmanuals.com) ( Accessed on 25/8/2015)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety. (http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/ older_adult_drivers) (Accessed on 25/8/2015)
  3. US Department of Transportation. USA Educational Foundation. Safe Driving for Older Adults (http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/olddrive/OlderAdultswebsite/index.html) (Accessed on 25/8/2015)
  4. Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle Healthy aging. Older drivers: 7 tips for driver safety. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/senior-health (Accessed on 25/8/2015
Last Reviewed : 20 October 2016
Writer : Dr. Ho Bee Kiau
Accreditor : Dr. Cheah Wee Kooi