With age comes many transformations—your taste, lifestyle preferences and social circles. However, some crucial changes are more subtle. As you grow older, your body becomes more sensitive to alcohol, your reaction time may slow down, and your hearing and vision may not be as sharp as they once were. Even if you are a capable driver, these changes can influence your ability to drive safely.
Understanding the natural shifts that unfold as you journey through life and adapting your habits accordingly may help you look after your well-being and that of others.
What the data on senior driving is showing
Researchers are expressing concern over the uptick of driving under the influence (DUI) among adults aged 65 and over. This trend is particularly troubling, considering that older adults are already susceptible to car accidents and fatalities.
Data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration in 2020 shows that about 233,235 senior drivers were involved in a car accident that led to injuries. Even more worrying, 17% of those who lost their lives were impaired by alcohol.
These figures highlight the need for ongoing conversations about driver safety and how age can influence your capacities.
The effects of aging on driving
Health conditions may become more prevalent as you age, prompting a reassessment of your lifestyle and driving abilities.
Eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts can make driving under harsh sunlight or in the dark more challenging. On the other hand, joint stiffness might affect your ability to steer the wheel or step on the brakes. Decreased reflexes and reaction times could make it hard to avoid unexpected obstacles.
At this point in your life, you are likely well aware of your limits with alcohol. However, aging can cause a decrease in alcohol tolerance. As a result, its effects may linger longer, potentially affecting your judgment. Driving after indulging in a few drinks would not be a good idea.
Taking prescription medications may also amplify the effects of alcohol, making you more intoxicated. Moreover, medications alone can have adverse effects, such as drowsiness and dizziness, making driving more dangerous.
Prioritizing safety when driving
Experiencing a few minor accidents might not be enough to alert you about your driving habits. After all, these are normal for every driver. However, if these incidents are starting to happen more often, it might be time to consider getting help, stop drinking alcohol or step away from being behind the wheel.
Years of driving experience may provide invaluable skills, but it may not be enough to counter declining cognitive and physical abilities. It’s crucial to be aware of these changes and to adapt your habits to ensure your safety and the safety of others.