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Do you remember the first time you drove a car all by yourself? Nothing is quite as liberating as being behind the wheel, knowing that you can do anything and go anywhere you want. However, driving is a privilege, not a right.
As you get older, even if you're in tiptop health, it's inevitable that you'll begin to experience some physical challenges. Aging affects everyone differently, some lose motor skills, vision or quick cognitive reasoning - but no matter what, as you reach the age of 65, you have to start to question if you're physically fit to operate a vehicle. It's hard to ask yourself, let alone answer. The possibility of turning over your keys means loss of independence. But sometimes health conditions require it.
U.S. News and World Report recently published an article discussing how people with a history of fainting are twice as likely to cause a car accident. This doesn't seem terribly shocking, however it's important to note that this study found that the group of people who were fainting the most were 70 or older. Over a third of these people suffered from a heart disease condition.
How at risk are seniors on the road
According to the RAND Corporation, if you're a driver 65 years or older, your likelihood of causing an accident increases 16 percent. Unfortunately, this group is also much more vulnerable to being killed in a crash as well. The source reported that the older vehicle operator is drastically in more danger of receiving fatal injuries as a result of a car accident. This is of course due to the general fragile state of older bodies and the deteriorating medical conditions that were mentioned earlier.
How to play it safe on the road
The older you get, the more you have to assess before you get behind the wheel. This is a thought process that many responsible seniors should adhere to before they hit the road, explained the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. First, seniors should consider how they are generally feeling especially if they have any cognitive diseases like dementia, or heart diseases with a history of fainting, it might be time to turn in the keys. Otherwise they should just do a quick mental check of basic health, said the CDC. How are your eyes, is your prescription updated? Might your medications have an impact on your driving?
Next, seniors need to check the driving conditions. How is the weather and how are the roads? What time of day is it? Reaction time naturally gets slower as you age, so these conditions pose a particular challenge to seniors. Don't risk it, unless you think you have good driving conditions, stay home or have someone more capable drive you. If you want to improve your reaction time however, it's important to stay fit. Exercising regularly will help keep your strength and flexibility about you on the road.
If you're in the clear next you have to ask what do you do first when you get in the car? Put your seatbelt on, of course. Try to avoid distractions in the car. Don't answer your cell phone and keep the radio on low so you can pay better attention. Also be sure you know where you are going, said the CDC. Having a planned route will help get you where you need to go safely.