Here are some indicators to pay attention to if you are wondering whether a loved one (or yourself) should be behind the wheel.
Vision is a primary element to good driving. Declining eyesight is normal as we age, but there may be a time when it’s no longer possible or safe to drive. Each state has its own requirements regarding vision for non-commercial driving; you can check limitations for all states here. Some concerning indications of poor eyesight include:
It’s critical that individuals 60 or older have eye exam visits annually to test for various conditions and diseases that would impact driving vision, like cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
Reaction time is the amount of time it takes a driver to recognize, assess, and react to an object, hazard, or event. Drivers may take as little as 1 second or as long as 3.5 seconds to react—which can make a difference in outcome. If a person’s reaction time is too high, then lives are at stake. Consider the following when deciding if responsiveness is an issue:
Some reaction time problems can be alleviated by only driving during the day in clear weather conditions with a pre-planned route.
Physical fitness plays an important role in safe driving. While you don’t have to be in the same shape as a racecar driver who must deal with 200 mile-per-hour G-force speed, everyday drivers need to have agility, strength, flexibility, and coordination. Be on the lookout for these signs that person may no longer be fit enough to drive:
Physical fitness may be restored with physical or occupational therapy, dedicated movement through fitness classes, and adjustments to the car itself (powering steering).
Regardless of someone’s current condition, changes are likely to occur. Awareness of changes—whether by the person, from loved ones, or through health exams—is the key in keeping everyone safe.