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Safety Tips for Older Drivers

Most of us vividly remember the day we got our driver's license and how exciting that newfound freedom was. Indeed, being able to drive is a symbol of independence. However, as we age, our driving abilities inevitably deteriorate. Unfortunately, this deterioration can put us and others at risk. As an older driver or a loved one of an older driver, it is important to heed warning signs that may mean it is time to hang up the keys.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has a specific site dedicated to "helping seniors drive safer and longer." On the AAA site, older drivers can take an exam to assess their driving ability and determine whether they might be a hazard to themselves or others. AAA cites the following driving behaviors that often contribute to car accidents caused by older motorists:

· Inattention

· Difficulties while backing up

· Failure to yield right-of-way

· Confusion in heavy traffic

· Improper left turns

· Hesitation in responding to new traffic signs, signals or pavement markings

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also has resources for older drivers. AARP lists warning signs that indicate when it might be time to stop driving. Some of those signs include: getting lost, particularly in familiar areas, frequent incidents of near-crashes, and becoming distracted easily or not being able to concentrate when driving.

In addition, AARP has tools for loved ones to evaluate the driving of the older drivers in their lives. Possible issues to consider are: whether the older driver can turn their head easily to check for traffic and when changing lanes, if they can move their foot efficiently from the brake to the accelerator, if they become lost while driving, or if they have had a significant amount of "close calls" while driving.

Of course, difficulties with vision should be taken into consideration as well. The American Optometric Association recommends that older drivers can mitigate vision issues by driving only during the daytime and by reducing their speed.

Regardless of whether or not it is indeed time for a senior to hang up his or her keys, being aware of what signs may signal that time is important for future reference.

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