Is aging a reason to stop driving?
NEWMARKET - York Region Health Services joins the Canada Safety Council in promoting this week as National Seniors' Safety Week, with a focus on medications and driving.
Canadians today are healthier, more active and live longer compared to previous generations. The ability to drive is an important aspect of this positive change, offering both mobility and independence to our older population.
Ninety-one percent of York Region residents over the age of 55 drive. The aging process, however, brings changes which can affect an individual’s ability to drive safely. Further, while older adults drive less than their younger counterparts, they have a higher death rate in vehicle-related collisions because they are more prone to injury and less likely to survive their injuries. In 2001 in Ontario, 127 drivers over the age of 55 were killed in motor vehicle collisions and another 7,351were injured.
At approximately age 55, vision, hearing, reflexes and flexibility may begin to deteriorate, with a greater loss occurring after age 75. It is important to recognize age-related changes and to learn how to compensate for them in order to drive safely. Studies indicate that 85% of the information necessary to drive is received through the eyes. Vision changes and declines progressively as we age. Such changes affect the ability of drivers to judge the speed of other vehicles, to observe what is ahead and around them, especially at night or when affected by the glare of headlights.
Aging also brings about musculoskeletal changes. Experiencing joint and muscle pain or stiffness while driving can affect a driver's ability to react in an emergency, impairing grip strength, the ability to use the brake or accelerator, and restricting limb and neck movement.
Health Services offers these tips for staying safe behind the wheel, especially if you are over 55 years of age:
• Make sure your vehicle is safe and well-maintained
• Ensure that you have clear visibility. Replace wiper blades regularly, clean your headlights, and use an extra wide rear view mirror. Remove anything which may obstruct your view
• Always use your shoulder and lap belts
• Make sure you are positioned 25 cm (10”) away from the air bag. Closer than that can cause too great an impact upon inflation
• Plan your route ahead of time and allow extra time for possible delays
• Schedule most of your driving early in the day when you feel rested and traffic is less congested. Try to avoid driving at night, when possible
• Have your eyes checked annually and ensure that the eyeglasses you use when driving have your current prescription
• Ask your doctor about any effects that your physical condition may have on your driving ability. Know your limitations and learn to compensate for them
• It is very important to review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist regularly. There are many medications which can affect driving as they cause drowsiness and slow reaction times
• Take a safe driving course every three years
• If you are age 80 and over, you are required to renew your licence every two years
• Exercise regularly to maintain musculoskeletal health and to stay active and alert
Be aware. Keep informed. Stay safe behind the wheel.
The Regional Municipality of York is committed to providing cost-effective, quality services that respond to the needs of our rapidly growing communities. York Region is comprised of the following nine area municipalities: Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville. For more information, visit our Web site at: www.region.york.on.ca
Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region
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