Getting older brings with it certain changes in reflexes, vision, hearing, and strength that may compromise driving ability. For seniors to stay safe and prevent auto accidents in West Virginia, they should engage in a few specific driving practices to reduce their odds of collisions. Otherwise, seniors could cause accidents – and not only suffer serious personal injuries, but face liability for others’ damages as well.
Take Physical Wellness Seriously
Senior citizens should keep careful stock of their health and wellness as the years progress. They should keep up with doctor’s appointments, as well as checkups with optometrists to monitor their vision. If an elderly driver is experiencing any health problems that could negatively affect driving, they should gain control of the situation or forfeit their driving privileges.
- Blurred vision or cataracts
- Macular degeneration
- Nighttime vision problems
- Joint pain or stiffness
- Seizures or diabetes
- Chronic fatigue
- Heart-related problems
- Disabling injuries
Most physicians will let the senior citizen know if a condition could compromise the ability to drive, as well as give directions for how to navigate safely despite an injury or illness. Using special glasses to see better while driving, for example, could help a senior stay independent without putting his or her life at risk. Keeping up with physical health is imperative to preventing illness-related accidents.
Pay Attention to Medication Side Effects
Driving under the influence (DUI) of any impairing drug is against the law in West Virginia. This includes not only illicit substances, but prescription and over-the-counter medications as well. Many legal medications can cause side effects and reactions that can compromise driving ability. The elderly should beware of taking new medications before driving. If a prescribed medication causes any of the following symptoms, the driver should not take any prior to a drive.
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Memory loss
- Blurred vision
- Decreased concentration
Seniors should check with their doctors about the possible side effects of a drug before driving. They should also test the drug to see how it affects them, on a day when they do not have to drive anywhere. If a medication with potentially dangerous side effects is necessary for health reasons, the senior should consider retiring from driving completely.
Stay Active and Healthy
Prolonging the ability to drive takes a proactive approach to health and wellness as a senior citizen. Staying active is a great way to maintain muscle strength and flexibility over time. Regular stretching and strength training exercises can keep drivers physically fit. It can help make necessary actions such as looking over one’s shoulder while reversing possible behind the wheel. It can also help prevent physical injuries that could make driving difficult or impossible.
Know the Limits
Many seniors can still drive on their own, but they may not be able to do the same things they could when they were younger. Driving overnight or taking solo road trips, for example, are things a senior citizen may not be able to safely accomplish. Driving in poor weather conditions is also something that can become more dangerous with age. The elderly should learn their new limits as they age, and know when to have someone drive them instead of going alone.
Seniors may not be on their cellphones as often as younger drivers, but that does not mean they do not fall prey to driver distractions. Distracted driving took almost 3,500 lives in 2016. Eating and drinking behind the wheel, making phone calls, fiddling with the radio, talking to passengers, reading billboards, rubbernecking, or personal grooming can all put a senior driver’s life – and others’ – in danger. All drivers, young and old, should focus 100% of their attention on the road while driving.