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Giving up your keys: When the freedom of the road puts others at risk

» The bright side

Safety tips

To reduce your accident risk:

  • Stay off high-speed roads.
  • Avoid driving in bad weather or at night.
  • Plan your route before you get into the car so you can concentrate on driving, not navigating.
  • Avoid taking long driving trips.
  • Leave plenty of room between your car and the one in front of you.
  • Check your mirrors often for traffic alongside and behind you.
  • Glance over your shoulder to check traffic when changing lanes.
  • Remember that some medications can affect your alertness—even if taken two days before.
  • Get regular eye exams.
  • Consider taking a driving refresher class from AAA or AARP.

Driving signifies independence, freedom, an active social life and emotional vitality. But to older adults who refuse to let go of their car keys, the freedom of the road can be a dangerous thing. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, drivers aged 65 and older have a fatality rate greater than that per mile driven of all drivers except teens.

Declines in vision, hearing and motor-reaction time can impair an older driver’s performance. These conditions also put other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists at risk.

How do you know if you or someone you love should give up his or her keys? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, talk to your healthcare provider to evaluate your driving safety:

  • Do you get lost on familiar roads—for example, driving home from the grocery store?
  • Do you get confused at intersections?
  • Has the number of near-accidents you’ve been in risen lately?
  • When you change lanes, do you often get honked at?
  • Do you fear left turns?
  • Do you turn your head completely when you want to look out of the corner of your eye? (One-third of all seniors have a 40 percent reduction in their field of vision, doubling the risk of an accident.)

The bright side

Giving up driving doesn’t have to mean a loss of freedom. Family, friends and public transportation can help you get around. Many senior-citizen centers and churches provide transportation services as well.


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