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Keeping Seniors Safe Behind the Wheel

Senior Driving

For many seniors, age-related declines in vision, hearing, reaction time and mobility can limit driving abilities. Some of the most common mistakes that older adults make include forgetting to check blind spots, veering into the wrong lane and failing to use turn signals. The key to staying safe behind the wheel is to be aware of your own limitations, reduce risk factors and know when it’s time to turn in the keys.

Monitor your vision and hearing with regular medical check-ups, and maintain your mobility by adopting a fitness regimen. In addition to maintaining your health, be sure to keep your car in good working order; the windshield, mirrors and headlights should be clean, and the brightness on the dashboard’s instrument panel should be turned up to enhance visibility. You might also consider improvements such as increasing the size of the rearview mirror. Be aware of your limitations and alter your driving habits to avoid any situations that make you uncomfortable. For example, if fast-moving traffic concerns you, avoid driving on freeways. Small changes in driving habits are important for your safety and that of others.

What are the benefits to turning in your keys?

When there are warning signs that age is interfering with safe driving abilities, the decision to stop driving is a noble one. Hiring a professional caregiver or using a transportation service can help you maintain your independence while ensuring your safety. In addition, there are many benefits to not driving, including:

  • Saving money. Giving up a car can mean more money in your bank account as you no longer need to worry about maintenance, insurance or gas.
  • Physical health. If you are able, less driving can mean more walking, biking, or other forms of exercise, which benefits your physical and mental well-being.
  • New social ties. Accepting rides from family, friends or alternate methods will increase social interaction and improve brain health. Find a way of accepting rides that makes you comfortable, such as exchanging a ride for another chore, like cooking dinner.
  • Increased calm. Without the added stress of driving, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy life more than ever before.

Home Care Assistance supports and empowers seniors who proactively decide to turn in their keys. To that end, Home Care Assistance of Palo Alto, in recognition of the local senior advocacy group Avenidas’ initiative “Shifting Gears: When to Stop Driving and How to Move Forward”, is offering free rides to their members the day before Thanksgiving to help with holiday errands. They hope to change the stigma associated with giving up driving, as it is an exciting new phase of life that welcomes relaxation and a new form of independence.