For many of us, the ability to get ourselves from point A to B is the epitome of freedom and independence. But as we age, decreased vision and hearing, slower reaction times and reduced ability to multitask can make it difficult to react appropriately to stimuli on the road; while neck, leg and arm stiffness and reduced strength can make it hard to break effectively, to manage the gas pedal and to manage the steering wheel. It’s no joke: statistics show that older adults have the highest mortality rate on Canadian roads than any other group.
If you’ve noticed you’ve had increased driving citations, a lot of “close calls” on the road, or are having trouble remembering routes you have driven all of your life, it may be time to book a driving safety test with your doctor. Other signs it’s time to reevaluate your road safety include difficulty seeing traffic lights and street signs and hearing emergency sirens and car horns, getting flustered easily behind the wheel and receiving feedback from concerned friends and family.
If you get an ‘okay’ to continue driving after you are assessed by a physician, it may still be a good idea for you to take a refresher driving course geared to older adults, which can teach you how to make adjustments to your driving technique so you can feel more confident on the road. The Canadian Safety Council offers a 55 Alive Refresher Course. Here, adults over 55 will receive updates about current road laws and new technology, will learn to anticipate the actions of other drivers and will be able to share their concerns in a safe environment. https://canadasafetycouncil.org/product/55-alive-driver-refresher-course/
In the meantime, a few adjustments to your driving behavior, such as avoiding driving at night and in bad weather, avoiding freeways when possible and planning your route before you head out can help you stay safe on the road.