By: Mr. Katz

Driving is a critical issue for seniors, especially in our country. Right now older drivers are more likely to get in multiple-vehicle accidents than younger drivers, including teenagers. The elderly are also more likely to get traffic citations for failing to yield, turning improperly, and running red lights and stop signs – an indication of decreased driving ability.

Car accidents are more dangerous for seniors than for younger people. A person 65 or older who is involved in a car accident is more likely to be seriously hurt, more likely to require hospitalization, and more likely to die than younger people involved in the same crash. In particular, fatal crash rates rise sharply after a driver has reached the age of 70.

So what does one look for in determining if they are fit or unfit to drive. Here are a few of the warning signs:

1. Feeling less comfortable and more nervous or fearful while driving.

2. Difficulty staying in the lane of travel.

3. More frequent “close calls” (i.e., almost crashing).

4. More frequent dents or scrapes on your car or fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.

5. Trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps.

6. Other drivers honking at you more often; more instances when you are angry with other drivers.

7. Friends or relatives not wanting to drive with you.

8. Getting lost more often.

9. Difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight ahead (i.e., cars or people seem to come “out of nowhere” more frequently).

10. Trouble paying attention to or violating signals, road signs, and pavement markings.

11. Slower response to unexpected situations; trouble moving foot from the gas pedal to the brake pedal or confusing the two pedals.

12. Easily distracted or hard to concentrate while driving.

13. Hard to turn around to check over shoulder when backing up or changing lanes.

14. Medical conditions or medications that may be increasingly affecting your ability to handle the car safely.

15. More traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers in the past year or two.

If you notice one or more of these warning signs, you may want to have your driving assessed by a professional or attend a driver refresher class. You may also want to consult with your doctor if you are having unusual concentration or memory problems, or other physical symptoms that may be affecting your ability to drive.

For Americans, especially elderly Americans, driving is an important part of independence. The loss of driving is second only to the loss of a spouse or a job for causing stress and unhappiness. Giving up your keys may have a major psychological effect on you. However, even if you must limit or give up driving, you can still get around. You can walk, carpool, ride with friends and family, take taxis, buses or trains, or use senior transit services. Remember, pride cannot protect you from another vehicle.