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Front Page » June 20, 2013 » Focus » Assessing your abilities as an aging driver
Published 405 days ago

Assessing your abilities as an aging driver


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When a person first earns a driver's license, they've earned more than just the right to legally operate an automobile. To many drivers, a driver's license is symbolic of freedom and self-sufficiency.

The significance of a driver's license never truly dissipates, which makes it difficult for aging men and women to address their abilities as a driver and whether or not they can still safely share the road with other motorists. Though many drivers can safely stay behind the wheel well into their golden years, others begin to recognize their skills are starting to diminish as they approach senior citizen status. For those who want help gauging their abilities as a driver, some self-examination can help.

Assess your

eyesight

Healthy eyes are essential to being a safe driver, and drivers can assess their eyesight in a number of ways. In addition to visiting an eye doctor for an eye examination, drivers should look for signs that they're having difficulty with driving. If signs and street markings aren't so easy to read anymore, you might need a new prescription for eyeglasses. When the glare of headlights at night makes it difficult to see, your driver's seat might need to be adjusted or you might want to consider antiglare eyeglasses that make it easier to see at night.

Assess your

comfort level

Safe drivers are also comfortable drivers. To assess your comfort level as a driver, ask yourself the following questions before getting back behind the wheel.

•Is it troublesome to look over your shoulder and change lanes?

•Has steering become difficult?

•Has your reaction time when switching from the gas pedal to the brake pedal decreased?

If you can answer "yes" to any of the questions above, then it could be that you're beginning to lose strength, coordination and/or flexibility, which can make it more difficult to operate a motor vehicle. Answering "yes" doesn't mean you have to give up your driver's license. In fact, your doctor might be able to prescribe therapies or medicines or suggest a fitness regimen that can make it easier for you to comfortably drive a car. In addition, if you're having trouble steering or operating a motor vehicle in any way, you might just want to find a vehicle that's easier to drive, such as one with an automatic transmission that has power steering and brakes.

When assessing your comfort level, also examine your mental state while driving. If other drivers make you uncomfortable or traffic signs are confusing, this can make it difficult to safely operate an automobile. Such feelings when driving could also be a side effect of a particular medication, so discuss the issue with your doctor to see if that's the case and if there are any alternatives.

Honestly address loved ones'

concerns

Aging drivers are often the last to notice if their abilities behind the wheel are starting to diminish. Loved ones are often put in the position of talking to aging drivers about their abilities, and this can cause friction. If loved ones have expressed concern about your abilities as a driver, honestly address these concerns, even if it's initially hurtful or embarrassing to do so. Your loved ones are sharing their feelings out of genuine concern for your well-being, so don't look at it as an assault on your self-sufficiency. Some organizations, including the AARP and AAA, offer driving classes for mature drivers to help them more adequately handle the challenges aging drivers might face.

Aging drivers face obstacles they may or may not be prepared for. When such challenges arise, that doesn't necessarily mean it's time to stop driving entirely. Instead, honestly weigh a host of factors before deciding if it's still safe for you to be behind the wheel.

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June 20, 2013
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