Tens of thousands of senior citizens will die in traffic accidents this year. Many of those car accidents will happen after loved ones try and fail to keep that elderly driver from getting behind the wheel and could easily be averted.
So many seniors see losing driving privileges as losing freedom and independence. It is very, very difficult for elders to admit that they cannot drive. For children, it seems uncomprehending because they go from seeing their parent as independent to individuals who can’t do things for themselves.
This article looks at top 10 hazards that put elders at risk when driving.
Cataract can be defined as the clouding of the les of the eye. This affects someone’s vision to varying degrees. First of all clumps of protein can reduce the sharpness of an image reaching the retina. When that happens, it not only clouds the lens, but reduces the light that reaches the retina. Cataracts are very common in elderly people. By the age of 80 at least half of Americans have had cataract or have gone through cataract surgery.
2. Heart & Stroke:
Heart & Stroke are the major forces that cause impaired driving. I have a friend who was crushed by a 20 wheeler whose driver suddenly died of a heart attack. He lost 3 months of his life, lying in a coma. In May of 2011, 2 pedestrians were killed in Toronto when the driver suffered a fatal heart attack. This may happen to anyone, but at least we can do our part to do something about it.
3. Lyme Disease:
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia Burgdorferi. Ticks are the most common causes of Lyme Disease. They receive the bacteria when feeding on mice, squirrels, birds and other small animals that carry the bacteria. Individuals with Lyme Disease have difficulty with cognitive functions. They may become lost in familiar locations when driving. They may also have difficulty following directions while behind the wheel. Losing track in the middle of a task also is a common problem individual with Lyme Disease face.
This is a form of an eye disease which affects the optic nerve in the eye. It is often associated with elevated pressure in the eye. The pressure leads to damage in the eye, which may cause blindness. 6 million people in the United States suffer from the disease and are blind as a result. There are no specific symptoms. Many people are thus unaware that they have it.
Increasingly people with dementia and Alzheimer’s are getting into repeated fender benders and accidents. 4 million Americans suffer from this, especially those over the age of 65. Many cities now require a Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) Test to be done. This is helpful in identifying unsafe drivers.
Many elderly people experience slowness. It takes them longer to complete tasks, including driving. This poses as a risk, especially when driving on the highway.
This too happens as we get older. For example, in 2007 a 90 year old Elizabeth Grimes mistook the gas pedal and went for a joy ride through the streets. She hit a car on the way which fatally injured a 17 year old student driving to take her algebra test. George Russell Weller, 86, drove in to a crowded farmers market in Santa Monica and killed 10 and injured 70 people. He confused the accelerator for the breaks.
Elders with diabetes should caution before driving. Impaired sensory and motor functions, diabetic eye diseases and nerve damage are some of the complications that could affect a person’s driving skills. This should be of great concern since 1 in 3 elders have diabetes. 20% have type 2 and half are unaware that they have it.
Pain and stiffness in the neck caused by arthritis can make it harder for an elder to look over the shoulder. Arthritis can also cause leg pains which could affect the mobility of legs.
10. Declining Health:
This is simply a reason to be worried. All elder drivers should gradually be able to earn back their license as they once started. It is simply a precaution.