Extending an Older Driver’s SAFE Driving Career

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nancy Schuster
Nancy Schuster, Certified Beyond Driving with Dignity Professional and Executive Director of ITNGreaterCincinnati

With each passing year, each of us knows that the day may be coming when we might lose some of our personal independence. Driving an automobile is one of the most important privileges of being an independent adult. And it is a privilege most of never want to give up.

Weighing the factors about whether it is time to retire from your driving career can be an extremely complex task. However, from the simplest of perspectives, the key to extending one’s safe driving career can be summed up in just two words: self awareness. Each of us must have the self-awareness to recognize any physical or mental decline that might adversely affect our ability to drive safely.

Although hanging up the car keys is rarely simple or easy, I believe that self-awareness is the foundation for keeping us safe drivers for as long as possible, particularly as we progress through the aging process.

Physiological functions such as vision and hearing, reflexes, memory, agility, muscle and bone strength, are obviously very important in our ability to remain safe drivers. Some of these functions naturally diminish as we get older. Changes can also be aggravated by medications, depression, and even loneliness.

We need to remember that accidents are more likely to cause serious or fatal injury to an older driver than to a younger driver, regardless of who is at fault. In two-car fatal collisions, where one driver is 70 or older, the older driver is 3.5 times more likely to be killed than the younger driver. Injuries that are seen as moderate to severe for most people are often fatal to people aged 70 and older.

The key to maintaining your self-awareness is to be very cognizant and alert to what others are saying to you about your driving. Your doctor, clergy member, an occupational therapist, a driving assessor, your spouse, children and other relatives, friends, or even a trusted neighbor, are all great sources of information.

By being receptive and listening to what these trusted individuals are trying to tell you, you can avoid having a future discussion with the police, a tow-truck driver, your insurance agent, emergency room physicians, your attorney and the court system, the news media, or an accident victim’s grieving family.

To learn more about Keeping Us Safe’s “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program, please contact Nancy Schuster, Certified Beyond Driving with Dignity Professional and Executive Director of ITNGreaterCincinnati, Cincinnati, OH. Nancy serves as a facilitator for Keeping Us Safe’s “selfassessment” program for older drivers. She may be reached at 513-313-7115 or by email at nschuster@keepingussafe.org.