President's Prescription: Older Driving Safety

President's Prescription: Older Driving Safety

December 1st through the 5th is National Older Driver Safety Awareness week and many will contemplate whether their older loved ones are safe to drive, especially as the winter weather creates treacherous conditions on the roads.

It's difficult to admit as we age that we may need more help doing certain things. Driving poses a significantly higher risk as older adults begin to suffer hearing and vision loss. Still, before you turn in your keys, consider these tips for driving safely as we age.

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Understand that aging changes your body as well as your mind

. As you age, expect common things like stiffness in your neck to limit your ability to turn your head to check your “blind spot” or leg and hip pain to make long distance driving difficult. Consider buying side mirrors that reduce the rotation of the neck necessary to see the danger zones and travel with a companion so that you may take turns driving on long trips.

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Have your eyes and ears checked each year

. Your driving proficiency could dramatically improve with a pair of glasses that will allow you to more easily read street signs or a hearing aid to increase your perception abilities.

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Listen to your body's warning signs

. If you experience health problems like memory trouble or know you have certain risk factors for heart attack or stroke, practice extra precaution behind the wheel until these things have been resolved under the recommendation of a doctor.

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Improve your health with alternatives to driving

. When possible, you may find that you do not need to drive and could easily get where you are going by walking or riding a bike. These alternatives allow you to preserve your independence and improve your overall health with exercise. Consult your doctor and know your limitations about these alternatives first.

Losing the ability to drive or needing extra help to do so is emotional for many people. However, your life and the lives you share the road with are more important than pride. Consult your doctor or a physical therapist if you're concerned about your driving for more advice.