Driving is a critical part of our daily lives – our lifeline, ensuring we can pick up groceries, see our family, get to work and visit our doctors. However, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver fatality rates in older drivers between the ages of 75 and 85+ is similar to those of 16 to 18 year old drivers. Various health conditions and declines in visual, thinking and physical abilities that occur with aging can affect driving ability; and if you take multiple medications to help those conditions, you could be putting yourself and others in danger.
Know the Facts Now Before a Crash Occurs
Older drivers can continue to drive safely using the right supports to ensure driving fitness. Consider the following steps to stay safe on the road.
One of the greatest threats to safe driving is impaired driving. Two-thirds of older drivers take five or more daily medications, which may affect their ability to drive safely. Some drug cocktails can produce dementia-like symptooms and others may impact your physical ability to drive your vehicle.
Aging & You: Older Driver Safety
In this video, New York State Office for the Aging Director, Corinda Crossdale discusses older driver safety with Chuck Conroy, Highway Safety Program Manager with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles; Donna Stressel, Program Director of Driving Rehabilitation Services at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady, NY; and Doctor Paul Davis, a distinguished Professor of Pharmacy at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
2/3 Drivers 65+ Take 5+ Daily Medications
Medications & Driving = A Prescription for Trouble
Make sure you have a current and accurate list of all medications and supplements you may be taking. This is helpful to your doctor when you’re visiting and discussing medication options. Its also good practice to run this list by your pharmacist on a regular basis, to spot any possible negative interactions or indications.
Be Informed and Ask Questions
When your doctor is prescribing a new medication, be sure to ask them about possible side-effects. If the new medication has a caution about driving, talk to your doctor about possible alternatives, or suggestions for how to safely drive while taking that prescription.
Consider Alternate Transportation
If a new medication is known to possibly impair driving, make alternate arrangements for transportation. Ask a friend or loved one for a ride, or contact your local Office for Aging to learn about transportation options for older adults in your area.
What You Can Do to Keep Yourself and Others Safe
Find out if any drugs you’re taking are affecting your driving abilities by using the online tool Roadwise Rx. You can enter the names of your medications and find out if, and how, their interactions could affect driving safety.
Learn how to facilitate a conversation with a loved one when it’s no longer safe for them to drive.
Physical challenges do not have to keep an older person from driving. Adaptive equipment like hand controls and extended mirrors can compensate for physical challenges and provide safety and confidence for an older driver.