For many, driving is as much a part of our daily lives as eating. It’s a sign of our independence and gives us the confidence that we can do for ourselves. But what happens when we get older, and we fear that auto safety is an issue? Does this mean the end of our independent days and a sign we must give up driving altogether? Fortunately, it doesn’t have to mean the end.
How does age affect driving?
We all age at different rates, so there is no hard line to when a person’s ability to drive will change or when it should end outright. However, it is necessary that as we age, we pay attention to things like decreased vision, hearing impairments, medications, and slower reflexes. It is important as our abilities begin to decline that we think about auto safety.
It’s ideal when we can realize our limitations and manage the situation on our own. There is a lot of emotion involved when our children or loved ones feel the need to suggest we give up or limit driving, and that can make the situation stressful for everyone.
If you are concerned about your ability to drive safely, consider taking an assessment to evaluate your knowledge. The Motor Vehicle Administration offers several self-assessments, as well as information on safe driving, on its website.
To maintain the ability to drive safely, it’s important to have regular eye exams and hearing tests. You should also talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking, and how they might impact your ability to drive. It’s important to know how your medications might affect factors like your judgment and reaction time, and choose not to drive if you are taking something that can interfere with your ability to drive safely.
If you are seriously concerned about auto safety and unsure of your efforts to self-assess, you can ask for a medical review. The state’s Medical Advisory Board assesses the mental and medical fitness of individuals to drive.
When dementia is involved, things may be a bit different. In the early stages, you may feel fine and confident in your ability to drive, but your family members may feel differently. If loved ones express fear that you might be placing yourself or others at risk, it’s important to talk it out. Don’t be afraid to discuss the changes you are experiencing with your family and doctor.
An impartial third party, like your doctor, can be a bit help in determining you can maintain as much independence as possible without placing anyone at risk. It might also relieve your family’s anxiety, and keep them from becoming “helicopter children.”
Adjusting to limited driving — or giving driving up entirely — can be very challenging. You may feel frustrated or angry, and that’s normal. Remember that it takes a lot of courage to give up driving and put the safety of those around you first. It’s a very selfless act and one that does not go unnoticed.