By Kevin Damask, staff writer with the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired
For a person who has enjoyed the freedom of driving most of their lives, relinquishing the opportunity to drive can be a difficult decision. During Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, December 5-9, it’s important to acknowledge the significance of these conversations and decisions in the lives of older adults.
Attention to detail and the ability to react is an important skill to possess while behind the wheel. As someone ages, it takes them longer to process information, which could pose a risk while driving. In a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the rate of accidents per mile steadily rises for drivers over 65. According to the Center for Disease Control, motorists older than 80 have a higher crash rate than any other age group, with the exception of teenage drivers.
In addition to causing crashes, warning signs that driving has become dangerous for an older driver includes excessive traffic tickets, damage to their vehicle, apprehension to drive at night, observation by others that their driving is getting worse, and changes in driving behavior.
Other risk factors for older drivers include health conditions, vision impairment, hearing impairment, prescription drug use and drug interactions, and alcohol abuse.
Talking to a friend or loved one about no longer driving can be tense and uncomfortable. When discussing driving cessation, the best options are to collect information, develop a plan of action, and follow through on the plan, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired recently addressed this topic in our webinar “When to Stop Driving and How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About It.” During this one-hour presentation, tips on how to respectfully discuss no longer driving with loved ones were presented, along with several resources for evaluating the ability to drive, and ways to find safe and alternative modes of transportation. To access this webinar, go to: http://tinyurl.com/h2q5zwn.