Hanging Up Your Car Keys
The decision to stop driving as you age can be a tough one to make. Dr. Kavon Young of the Silver Seniors Clinics in the Harris County Hospital District in Texas notes that hanging up the car keys can significantly impact your quality of life.
“Part of what seniors try to hold onto is their independence," she wrote in a release published on the hospital district's web site. "Losing the ability to drive can be a big blow to self-esteem and could trigger depression, anxiety and loneliness. In some cases, seniors may feel isolated and not want to keep up with their medical care."
Even so, continuing to drive can be dangerous as age begins to impact your skill at the wheel. Dr. Young, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, at The University of Texas Health Science Center, lists these signs that it might be time to move over to the passenger seat:
• Longer drive times for short distances
• Not obeying traffic signs
• Forgetting destinations or locations
• Hitting curbs
• Being angry or anxious when driving
Also, she reminds us that driving a vehicle requires full use of senses like hearing and sight, as well as good muscle coordination of hands and feet. Any impairment such as tremors, a loss of hearing, or cognitive decline could put you and others on the road at risk. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a total of 4,139 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010, which is a 4 percent increase from the previous year.
Dr. Young offers strategies for easing yourself into your new non-driver status:
• Limit drives to short distances
• Drive only to familiar places
• Avoid driving at night
• Avoid driving during bad weather
• Build a chauffeur list with family, friends or church members.
To find a driver evaluation program to determine your fitness for continuing to drive, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association.