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  • Cameron Oglesby

You may not have to turn in your car keys after all.

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Contrary to stereotypes, older drivers can be safer drivers. While there are more drivers in their 70s driving more miles each year, a 2020 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found they have fewer police-reported crashes per mile than 35 to 54 year old drivers.

This is due to a combination of improvements – in cars, in roads, and in healthcare.

· Better Cars – Each year, more and more makes and models earn good ratings in IIHS crash tests. And more and more come with driver-assistance technology that helps drivers of all ages avoid crashes and close calls. Blind-spot warnings are great for drivers whose stiff joints make it harder for them to turn their heads. Forward automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control compensate for a driver’s slower reflexes or difficulty judging other vehicles’ speed and distance.

· Better Roads – Since 1988, Federal Highway Administration infrastructure improvements – such as easier-to-see-and-read road signs and converting problematic intersections to traffic circles – have made roads safer for drivers of all ages.

· Better Health Care– But perhaps the biggest area of improvement is in healthcare, which can delay the onset of poor vision and cognitive decline. Medication can control chronic conditions such as high blood pressure. Laser surgery can remove cataracts that cause glare difficulties from oncoming headlights. And if you have a physical or cognitive disability, or some other condition that affects your driving, a clinical driving assessment with an Occupational Therapist Driving Rehabilitation Specialist can help you develop workarounds.

There are also seven things you can do yourself to improve your driving environment and habits:

1. If you’re buying a new car, learn about the latest safety technology to look for.

2. Add a few safety upgrades to your present car – like a wider rear-view mirror or mirror extenders on your outside side-view mirrors.

3. Check the adjustments in your car. For example, make sure you’re sitting at least 10 inches from the steering wheel; you’ll be more comfortable on the road and safer if a crash does occur. And raise your seat to make sure you can see over the dashboard.

4. If one or more of your meds makes you sleepy, talk to your doctor about changing the time you take them or switching to a non-drowsy alternative.

5. If the weather’s really bad, or if you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded, stay home. When in doubt, don’t go out.

6. Go for regular vision and hearing screenings. Most Medicare Advantage Plans cover one of each per year – and prescription glasses and hearing aids, too. And monitor and treat any chronic conditions with regular doctor visits.

7. Use workarounds for potentially sticky situations. If a left turn across a main road looks tricky, try driving a block farther and taking three rights. Or continuing on to the next light, then taking a U-turn and a right. (This will obviously work much better in the City of Richmond and other urban areas than in cul-de-sac-heavy suburban developments, but in those there’ll be far less oncoming traffic.) Or if driving at sunset’s difficult, go earlier or later.

Driving – safely, or course – is good for your health in a number of ways. First, it helps you maintain your independence. And second, it lets you get out of the house and into the world, making social contacts. This is a great preventive and antidote for those feelings of shut-in isolation and loneliness that can lead to depression and other threats to your cognitive and emotional life.

At Senior Insights, we value your independence every bit as much as you do and custom-design our holistic senior care management plans to preserve it to the fullest. The thorough three-part needs assessment we conduct with new clients and their families shows us which kinds of care you need and which you don’t (and shouldn’t have to pay for). And takes full account of your own individual likes and dislikes, tastes and preferences, hobbies and interests, and priorities and values.

Please contact us to learn more about senior care that maximizes your independence while minimizing costs.

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