Factors That May Impede Seniors’ Safe Driving

With employees returning to the workplace, shopping and dining in full swing, and postponed weddings, graduations, and family reunions scheduled, there are more cars on the road this summer.  After extended periods of time in lock-down or isolation, people are traveling more and gathering to celebrate with loved ones.  But after months of only driving short distances to the grocery store, doctor, dentist, or for a much-needed haircut, older pilots may be less confident – and any new vision changes could impair safe driving. 

According to the American Optometric Association, people over the age of 60 can struggle to read road signs and instrument panels as well as find the glare from oncoming headlights bothersome, notice peripheral vision is less acute and experience changes in color perception that make it difficult to interpret traffic lights.   These age-related vision changes, along with diseases of the eyes, can hinder the ability to drive safely. 

Cataracts, macular degeneration, eye-related complications from diabetes, and glaucoma are eye diseases that can impair vision and tend to affect older adults more often.  Even severe allergies or chronic dry eye can affect vision and lead to unsafe driving.   If you or a loved one begins experiencing blurred vision, intolerance of glare from headlights, dark spots that obscure vision, or an inability to read road signs or see pedestrians or cyclists in peripheral vision, it’s time to see an ophthalmologist.  

Families may notice older adults are having difficulty and could be unsafe driving when there are frequent dings and scratches on the vehicle.   If the driver often hits a curb while making a right turn, weaves in and out of their driving lane, or experiences frequent close calls, it may be time to have “the conversation” about retiring from driving permanently.  Providing alternatives to having a car like public transportation information, ride-sharing apps, and senior transportation services can help ease anxiety over a loss of independence.  It’s not an easy discussion to have with older adults, but for their safety and the safety of others, it may be a necessity. 

Read more about how to determine the safety of older drivers by following this link to a recent article by the Institute on Aging.