New Study Has Serious Message for Elderly Drivers

Even if  your aging parent is perfectly healthy and has a clean driving record, their advanced age may still affect their ability to drive safely. That’s the conclusion from a study on elderly drivers recently published in the journal Neuropsychology.

Overall, 17 percent of the elderly drivers in the study made mistakes such as veering or failing to use check blind spots that caused the professional driving instructor accompanying them to hit the emergency brake or grab onto the steering wheel.

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The research showed that the older the driver, the more likely they were to make serious driving errors. Participants between the ages of 85 and 89 made four times as many critical mistakes as those aged 70 to 74. None of the participants had dementia. All lived independently and still drove at least once a week.

Another key finding: Elderly drivers who had been involved in an accident within the past five years were the participants most likely to make a driving error. And for the record, the elderly male drivers made as many errors as the elderly female drivers.

Here are some safe driving tips for elderly drivers who want to stay behind the wheel as long as possible:

• If you’re an elderly driver in good health, at the very least it makes sense to take a defensive driving course and learn how to adjust your driving habits for slowing reflexes and diminished vision. For a nominal fee, AARP offers its well-respected Driver Safety Course in a classroom or online.

• If you’re the adult child of an aging parent whose had one or more driving-related accident in last few years, stop rolling the dice! It’s time for a more formal driving assessment. Check out the American Automobile Association’s Roadwise Review self-assessment software here. The online version is free or you can order a CD for a nominal fee.

• Ask your doctor to review your prescription and over-the-counter meds for interactions or side effects that can cause dizziness or confusion.

• Get your vision and hearing checked once a year.

• Don’t eat, drink, or blast the radio while driving! And don’t even think of dialing your cell phone. Distracted driving is a problem for drivers of all ages — but when combined with delayed reaction times, it’s often deadly.