Safety tips for se­niors still be­hind the wheel

The Maui News - - AUTO -

A greater sense of in­de­pen­dence is of­ten cited as the rea­son so many young peo­ple anx­iously await the day they earn their driv­ers li­censes. But the con­nec­tion be­tween driv­ing and in­de­pen­dence is not lost on se­niors, ei­ther.

Ag­ing can take its toll on driv­ers, prompt­ing such driv­ers fam­i­lies to feel as if their loved ones abil­ity to safely op­er­ate mo­tor ve­hi­cles has been com­pro­mised. How­ever, many se­niors can still safely op­er­ate mo­tor ve­hi­cles, and those who do can take steps to en­sure they’re as safe as pos­si­ble be­hind the wheel.

Avoid driv­ing on days when aches and pains are strong. Aches and pains are com­mon side ef­fects of ag­ing, and se­niors know that some days are bet­ter than oth­ers. Se­niors abil­ity to con­trol their ve­hi­cles may be com­pro­mised on days when stiff­ness, aches or pains seem par­tic­u­larly strong, so it’s best to avoid driv­ing dur­ing th­ese times. Fa­tigue may set in on days when aches and pains re­quire ex­tra ef­fort to per­form rel­a­tively sim­ple tasks, and driv­ers of all ages should avoid driv­ing while tired.

Don’t skip med­i­cal check­ups. Few se­niors may look for­ward to their med­i­cal check­ups, but vis­its to the doc­tor can re­veal is­sues that can help se­niors be safer on the road. Sched­ule rou­tine vi­sion ex­ams so eye­glass pre­scrip­tions are al­ways up-to-date. In ad­di­tion, se­niors should dis­cuss hear­ing screen­ings with their physi­cians so they can en­sure they can al­ways hear sirens and other mo­torists while on the road. Great strides have been made in re­gard to help­ing peo­ple with fad­ing hear­ing hear bet­ter, and se­niors would be wise to take ad­van­tage of such ad­vance­ments, which in­clude hear­ing aids that can be con­nected to smart­phones.

Fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with med­i­ca­tion side ef­fects. Whether they do so tem­po­rar­ily or per­ma­nently, many se­niors take med­i­ca­tions, and ev­ery med­i­ca­tion comes with side ef­fects. When fill­ing a new pre­scrip­tion, care­fully read the dosage and de­scrip­tion la­bel to en­sure that it’s safe to drive while tak­ing the medicine. Make note of how you feel when tak­ing a new pre­scrip­tion, avoid­ing driv­ing if the med­i­ca­tion makes you feel fa­tigued or drowsy or af­fects your mo­tor func­tions. If the side ef­fects of a new pre­scrip­tion are mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to safely op­er­ate a ve­hi­cle, dis­cuss po­ten­tial al­ter­na­tives with your physi­cian.

Avoid driv­ing in cer­tain con­di­tions. Driv­ing in in­clement weather, dur­ing rush hour and at night makes many driv­ers un­com­fort­able, re­gard­less of their age. But such con­di­tions can be es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous for ag­ing driv­ers whose vi­sion and re­ac­tion times might be fad­ing. Se­niors who avoid driv­ing in harsh con­di­tions and heavy traf­fic may be more com­fort­able be­hind the wheel, thereby re­duc­ing their risk of ac­ci­dent or in­jury.

Se­niors need not give up their driv­ers li­censes at the first signs of ag­ing. But ad­just­ing cer­tain be­hav­iors and ex­er­cis­ing ex­tra cau­tion can help th­ese men and women stay safe be­hind the wheel.

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