by Dedra Jize, OT, CSA
Geriatric Care Manager, Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Most people agree that driving is one of the keys to independence. However, new driving challenges arise as you age. Arthritis can make flexing and twisting painful and weakened muscles make it harder to grip. Aging also affects vision, hearing, cognitive function and reaction time. Other challenges you may face include an increased number of cars on the road, lights and sounds that vie for your attention, and sharing the road with distracted drivers.
As a general rule, seniors are safe drivers compared to other age groups. The bad news is that seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven. Many people are good at self-monitoring their driving abilities and make changes accordingly. They avoid driving after dark or during rush hour, and only drive short distances on quiet, familiar routes. Americans may be living longer and enjoying a healthier, more active life style than ever before, but seniors are “out living their ability to drive safely by an average of 7 to 10 years” according to AAA. So, what can we do to drive as long and safe as possible?
The fact that you are even questioning your road safety is a step in the right direction. Those who refuse to even consider that their driving abilities may decline with age may be putting themselves and others at risk. Be open to hear the comments that family or friends are saying about your driving; or better yet, ask someone you trust for their analysis and opinion of your driving skills.
Fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at age 70-74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older. So if you are approaching or in that age group, there are steps you can take to lower the incidence of impaired driving. First, keep active. Exercising regularly will increase your strength and flexibility; staying engaged will help keep your mind sharp. Next, keep on top of your physical health. Have eye exams annually; ask your doctor to review all medications (prescription and over-the-counter) to reduce side effects and any interactions. Next, plan your car trips so that you drive during the daylight, in good weather, and take the safest routes. When driving, leave a large distance between you and the car in front of you, and avoid distractions in your car (cell phones, eating, loud radio, etc.). Finally, consider the alternatives to driving: carpool with your friends, ask family for a ride, call for a ride (Uber, Lyft, etc.), utilize community-based systems (Road Runners) or use public transit (Out Reach).
You may also want to consider a newer car. Cars are safer than ever and have numerous safety features built in including multiple airbags, improved seatbelts, and high contrast instrument panels. Many new cars include back up cameras, lane change monitors that will blink a light, ring a bell or vibrate a seat if the driver is making an unsafe lane change, and automatic braking if a car stops suddenly in front of you. And for those who find parallel parking difficult, some cars will do it for you. With car manufacturers adding a lot of special features to their cars, it is a fantastic opportunity for senior drivers to take advantage of these to help them drive safer and longer.
Whether you remain physically and mentally active, modify your driving habits, or even change your vehicle, there are things that can be done to help you remain safer behind the wheel for a longer period of time. You may also want to sign up for an AARP Smart Driver Course to learn more about remaining safe on the road (and possibly reduce your car insurance premium, too).
Should you have any questions, contact me at (408) 356-9200 or (831) 476-2400 for a free 15 minute consultation.
ABOUT THE Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Roy W. Litherland is an attorney whose practice emphasizes elder law and estate planning. Roy has practiced law in the greater Bay Area for over 35 years and is certified as a legal specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. In addition to his extensive legal background, Roy was also previously licensed as a Certified Public Accountant. Although Roy has an extensive background in accounting, he retired his license to practice as a CPA to devote his time and energy entirely to the practice of law, specializing in estate planning, trusts, Medi-Cal planning, and probate. Roy is a noted speaker on living trusts, Medi-Cal Planning, and estate planning. He is a member and designated Fellow of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, an organization that fosters excellence in estate planning.
Dedra Jize joined the Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law in February 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from San Jose State University and is a Certified Senior Advisor and Geriatric Care Manager. Dedra has worked as a Caregiver Support Coordinator and Activity Assistant for the Alzheimer’s Activity Center in San Jose, as a Foster Care Provider with Advent Group Ministries, and as an Occupational Therapist at Good Samaritan Hospital. Dedra works to help our senior clients and their families with Medicare issues, and Medi-Cal applications and representations. She provides psycho-social assessments of health care needs, develop individualized plans for care, evaluate the specific needs of clients, and makes recommendations when applicable for home care services, independent living communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing facilities. Her goal in working with clients is to advocate on behalf of the senior, and to enhance the quality of life of both the older adult and his or her family.
The Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.