Driving and Vision Disorders

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers many resources for a wide range of safety concerns.

Here is an example of one of their latest videos:

You can find many more video based resources at NHTSA’s You Tube page — http://www.youtube.com/user/USDOTNHTSA

 

Older drivers’ crash rates continue to drop

Older drivers’ crash rates continue to drop. (from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/49/1/1)

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According to the latest Status Report (Vol. 49, No.1) issued today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, today’s older drivers are both less likely to become involved in collisions and less likely to be killed or seriously injured if they do crash.

Primary factors include better health among that generation and more advanced safety features found in their cars.

This recent study reflects a shift that began in the mid-1990’s and suggests that the growing ranks of older drivers are not increasing road risk as much as previously projected.

From their report:

The latest analysis bolsters the evidence that drivers 70 and older have enjoyed bigger declines in fatal crash rates per licensed driver and per vehicle miles traveled than drivers ages 35-54, referred to in the study as middle-age drivers, since 1997. A new finding is that progress appears to have slowed in recent years, with the biggest improvements in older drivers’ fatal crash rates relative to middle-age drivers occurring between 1997 and 2007.

The crash outlook is improving for both older and younger drivers. During 1997-2012, fatal crash rates per licensed driver fell 42 percent for older drivers and 30 percent for middle-age ones. Looking at vehicle miles traveled, fatal crash involvement rates fell 39 percent for older drivers and 26 percent for middle-age ones from 1995 to 2008. A breakdown of the results for older drivers by age group shows that fatal crash involvement rates per licensed driver fell 36 percent for drivers ages 70-74, 46 percent for drivers 75-79 and 49 percent for drivers 80 and older during 1997-2012.

There were similar declines in older drivers’ involvement rates in injury crashes that weren’t fatal during the same periods.

“This should help ease fears that aging baby boomers are a safety threat. Even crashes among the oldest drivers have been on a downswing,” says Anne McCartt, the Institute’s senior vice president for research and a co-author of the study.

At the beginning of the study period, drivers 80 and older had by far the highest fatal crash rate, at nearly twice the rate of drivers ages 35-54 and 70-74. By 2012, the fatal crash involvement rate for drivers 80 and older improved to 1.4 times the rate of the other two age groups.

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Summary

As noted at this blog site and in many published articles about older drivers, calendar-year-age is not a very good measure of driver performance.  Regular check ups with the family doctor may be the only way to fairly evaluate physical and cognitive ability as drivers age.  Additioanlly, it is quite possible that some drivers at age 70 won’t perform as well as some at age 80, etc.

The IIHS wrapped its report with the following statement:

The fact that older drivers increased their average mileage during 1997-2012 may indicate that they are remaining physically and mentally comfortable with driving tasks. When older adults reduce their trips, there’s evidence that it is often because they are self-regulating their driving in response to impairments. IIHS research has found that the more memory and physical mobility problems people develop over time, the more limits they place on their driving (Click HERE for report).

Families need to work cooperatively with older drivers to determine the best outcomes possible.  Older drivers depend on mobility, but their abilities can change quickly.

Road Safety Is Everyone’s Responsibility.

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Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (December 2–6, 2013)

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) recognizes and wants to promote an understanding of the how important it is for older citizens to have mobility and transportation options.  This is critical to ensuring that older adults remain active in their local community—shopping, working or volunteering—with the confidence that transportation will not be the barrier to strand them at home.

Older-Driver-revised-banner-v2Throughout the week of December 2nd thru 6th, AOTA will bring attention to different aspects of older driver safety:

  • Monday: Identifying Changes That Can Affect Driving
  • Tuesday: Family Conversations
  • Wednesday: Screening and Evaluations
  • Thursday: Equipment That Can Empower Drivers
  • Friday: Taking Changes in Stride

See more at: http://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/Older-Driver-Safety-Awareness-Week.aspx

Tips for older drivers can also be found at the Mayo Clinic web site — http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/senior-health/HA00042

No. 1: Stay physically active

Staying physically active improves your strength and flexibility. In turn, physical activity can improve driver safety by making it easier to turn the steering wheel, look over your shoulder and make other movements while driving and parking. Look for ways to include physical activity in your daily routine. Walking is a great choice for many people. Stretching and strength training exercises are helpful for older drivers, too. If you’ve been sedentary, get your doctor’s OK before increasing your activity level.

No. 2: Schedule regular vision and hearing tests

Senses such as hearing and vision tend to decline with age. Impaired hearing can be a concern for older drivers by limiting the ability to hear an approaching emergency vehicle or train. And common age-related vision problems — such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration — can make it difficult to see clearly or drive at night.

Ask your doctor how often to schedule vision and hearing tests. Even if you think your hearing and vision are fine, stick to your doctor’s recommended exam schedule. Problems may be easier to correct if caught early.

No. 3: Manage any chronic conditions

Work with your doctor to manage any chronic conditions — especially those that might impact driver safety, such as diabetes or seizures. Follow your doctor’s instructions for managing your condition and staying safe behind the wheel. This might include adjusting your treatment plan or restricting your driving.

Of course, it’s equally important to know your medications. Many drugs can affect driver safety, even when you’re feeling fine. Read your medication labels so that you know what to expect from each one. Don’t drive if you’ve taken medication that causes drowsiness or dizziness. If you’re concerned about side effects or the impact on driver safety, consult your doctor.

No. 4: Understand your limitations

Consider your physical limitations and make any necessary adjustments. For example, if your hands hurt when gripping the steering wheel, use a steering wheel cover that makes holding and turning the wheel more comfortable. You might ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist, who can offer assistive devices to help you drive or suggest specific exercises to help you overcome your limitations.

You might also adjust your vehicle or choose a different vehicle to better meet your needs. For example, many older drivers find it easier to step into and out of a bigger car. Vehicles that feature larger, easier-to-read dials on the dashboard are often popular with older drivers. Features such as large mirrors and power windows and door locks can be helpful, too.

No. 5: Drive under optimal conditions

You can improve driver safety by driving during the daytime, in good weather, on quiet roads and in familiar areas. Plan your route to avoid rush-hour traffic. Delay your trip if the visibility is poor. Beyond road conditions, make sure you’re in optimal condition to drive. Don’t drive if you’re tired or angry — and never drive after drinking alcohol.

No. 6: Plan ahead

When you get in your vehicle, be prepared to drive. Plan your route ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself trying to read a map or printed directions while driving. If you use a GPS device, enter your destination before you start driving. If necessary, call ahead for directions or major landmarks, such as water towers, schools or other prominent buildings. While you’re driving, don’t do anything that takes your focus from the road — such as eating, using a cell phone or adjusting the radio.

No. 7: Update your driving skills

Consider taking a refresher course for older drivers. Updating your driving skills might even earn you a discount on your car insurance, depending on your policy. Look for courses through a community education program or local organizations that serve older adults.

In addition, know when it’s time to consider other alternatives. If you become confused while you’re driving or you’re concerned about your ability to drive safely — or loved ones or others have expressed concern — it might be best to stop driving. Consider taking the bus, using a van service, hiring a driver or taking advantage of other local transportation options. Giving up your car keys doesn’t need to end your independence. Instead, consider it a way to keep yourself and others safe on the road.