ALBANY TIMES UNION.
June 26, 2006.
GETTING OLDER does not necessarily mean your driving days are over, but it is imperative that you and your family members know when it's time to limit driving or stop altogether. The ability to drive safely is a matter of function, not age. The standard measure is visual acuity, how much detail you see.
According to Dr. Lylas Mogk, chairman of the American Academy of Ophthalmology's vision rehabilitation committee, diminished contrast sensitivity, like not being able to distinguish a black car at night, is the cause of many problems.
As we age, various medical conditions may affect driving by causing weakness, loss of flexibility, stiff joints and cognitive impairments, such as difficulty concentrating and slowing of reaction time. Medications may also cause drowsiness and affect mental functioning.
How do you know when it's time to consider limiting or stopping driving? AARP lists the following warning signs:
-More frequent dents, scrapes, close calls.
-Difficulty staying in your lane, judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance or exit ramps.
-Feeling uncomfortable or nervous when driving.
-Noticing others are honking at you frequently.
-Getting lost more often or having difficulty concentrating.
-Difficulty understanding or reacting to road signs and pavement markings.
-Difficulty turning your head to back up or change lanes.
-Slower reaction time - difficulty moving foot from gas to brake or confusing the pedals.
-Feeling like cars or pedestrians come "out of nowhere."
-Others don't want to drive with you.
Experiencing one or more of these warning signs doesn't automatically mean it's time to hand over the keys. Consider a classroom refresher course such as the AARP driver safety program.
Specialists, such as occupational therapists, can assess driving performance, make recommendations for the driver and suggest modifications for the car.
For more information, visit http://www.aarp.org, type "driving" in the search box, and the first choice listed is "driver safety." Click on this, put in your Zip code and it will take you to classes in your area. Or call (888) 227-7669.
Or check out http://www.seniordrivers.org, an informative Web site sponsored by the AAA Foundation for traffic safety.
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