Distracted Driving Should be a Serious Concern for Elderly Drivers
Distracted driving is a hot topic among teenagers. Between cell phones and texting, loud music, drive-through fast food joints and a desire to travel around in groups, younger drivers are spending a lot more time behind the wheel doing everything but driving.
If you are a parent of an experienced driver, you have obvious reason for concern. In fact, if you personally drive the roadways of New Jersey, anyone else’s failure to focus on the tasking of driving puts you – and your passengers – at exponential risk of getting into a car accident.
What if you have older relatives who still drive? Assuming they are generally in good health and continue to follow the rules of the road, do you have reason to be worried? After all, it’s not likely your elderly parents are texting and looking away from the road to constantly change the radio station. Maybe so, but the truth is: you have serious reason to worry about elderly drivers.
Statistics reveal that a person’s chance of getting into a fatal crash significantly increase after age 70. The reasons are simple: vision decreases, hearing is impaired and, certainly, reflexes aren’t what they used to be. In fact, according to Healthguide.org, “aging tends to result in a reduction of strength, coordination, and flexibility, which can have a major impact on your ability to safely control a car.”
If someone else loses control of their car, or makes a poor or ill-timed decision while driving (think failure to stop at a stop sign, cutting off a driver in another lane, and, yes, looking down to read a text), all other drivers on the road need to react on a dime. Is your older relative up to that task?
- Do they have neck, back or shoulder pain (including arthritis) that make it difficult to turn to see something quickly?
- Does a leg injury prevent them from moving between the brake and gas pedals quickly? Same question goes for arms/hands and operating a steering wheel.
- Most specifically, is your loved one experiencing slower reaction times? If eye-hand-foot coordination, for example, isn’t what it used to be, someone else’s distracted driving can become a critical problem for your relative.
Of course, there is no actual number that anyone suggests is the perfect age to ask someone to turn in their driver’s license. Decisions like that shouldn’t be made without careful consideration; they must be based on the person’s individual situation. However, if you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, it may be sit down with your relative (maybe even your spouse!) and discuss the new dangers on the road they haven’t thought about before.
Unsure how to begin the “talk?” Since the issue of distracted driving is a serious concern for all drivers, you may want to pull an oldie but goodie out of your parents’ own guidebook. Tell them, “It’s not you I’m worried about, it’s everyone else on the road.”