Jan Hoelscher, the program coordinator with the Brazos Valley Injury Prevention Coalition and Statewide and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, will present a program on Mature Driving at this year’s Parker County Extension Education Association’s Spring Fling that will be held on April 13, at Couts United Methodist Church. Her program will highlight important things to consider when driving. Her presentation will highlight some of these issues as well as others. I hope you will make plan to join us.
Have you worried about driving? Or had family members concerned? Maybe you have had some health problems that could be affecting your ability to drive over time. Talking with your family and your health care professional about your driving and health could help you find a solution.
There are many factors to consider as you get older and continue to drive. Although we don’t think about them, they often make it more difficult to drive, and make you a less safe driver.
Arthritis, stiff joints and muscles. As you age joints get stiff and your muscles may weaken. These might affect your ability to drive. These changes can make it harder to turn your head to look back, turn the steering wheel or brake safely.
Check with your doctor if pain, stiffness, or arthritis makes it harder to drive.
If possible, drive a car that is easy to drive and has large mirrors.
Stay physically active to keep and improve strength and flexibility.
Think about getting hand controls for both the gas and brake pedals if you have leg problems
Eyesight. As we get older it may be harder to see people, things, and movement outside your direct line of sight. It may take longer to read signs and recognize familiar places. At night you may have trouble seeing clearly. You may have glare from oncoming headlights or streetlights. Eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration as well as some medications can cause vision trouble.
Have your eyes checked each year.
If you need glasses to drive, wear them. Keep prescriptions up to date.
Cut back on night driving. Try to avoid driving at sunrise and sunset.
Hearing. The older we get, hearing can change making it harder to hear sirens, horns and other noises. Hearing loss can be a problem because the sounds warn you when you need to pull over or get out of the way.
Have your hearing checked every three years.
Discuss hearing concerns with your doctor. There may be help.
Try to keep the inside of the car as quiet as possible when driving.
Slower reaction time and reflexes. Your reflexes may get slower, and you might not react as quickly. You might also have a shorter attention span making it harder to do things. Loss of feeling in fingers and feet can make it more difficult to steer or use the foot pedals. Parkinson’s disease or limitations following a stroke can make it no longer safe to drive.
Leave more space between you and the car in front of you.
Start braking early when you need to stop.
Avoid heavy traffic areas.
Medication. If you take medications, they can affect you by making you drowsy, lightheaded or less alert. Many medicines can have side effects that makes driving unsafe.
Read medicine labels carefully.
Make a list of all medicines and talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how they can affect your driving.
Don’t drive if you feel lightheaded or drowsy.
Source: National Institute on Aging
Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent in Parker County.