The California Highway Patrol (CHP) “Age Well, Drive Smart” program is a valuable resource for older drivers in the state of California. Their mission is to “ reduce motor vehicle collision and pedestrian deaths and injuries experienced by older Californians and to increase seniors’ alternate transportation options when driving is no longer an option.” The program is designed to help older drivers improve their driving skills and increase their understanding of age-related physical changes that may affect driving, allowing them to make adaptations to continue driving safely.
Importance of The Program
As drivers age, changes to their physical and mental abilities directly and indirectly result in age-related driving impairments. With the older adult population in the United States aged 65 and older expected to practically double between 2016 and 2060, from 49 million to 95 million, these types of programs help reduce the number of personal injury and fatalities caused by senior drivers by providing free education and increasing awareness. Using data from 2018 the California Office of Traffic Safety was able to analyze the accidents caused by aging drivers which resulted in serious injury or fatality to determine what issues to address with this program.
The class is approximately two hours long and is offered at local CHP offices as well as many senior centers within the community and is free for California’s senior drivers age 65 and older. One of the key components of the program is a classroom presentation, which provides older drivers with information on how aging can affect their ability to drive. This includes information on changes in vision, hearing, and reaction time, as well as tips for maintaining and adapting these abilities. The presentation also covers important safety issues such as defensive driving, sharing the road with other vehicles and pedestrians, and the effects of medications on driving.
Another important aspect of the program is the driving evaluation. This is a one-on-one evaluation with a CHP officer, who will ride along with the older driver and provide feedback on their driving skills. This allows the older driver to get a better sense of any areas where they may need to improve and also provides the CHP officer with a chance to identify any potential safety concerns.
Finally, the program includes a one-on-one consultation with a CHP officer. During this consultation, the older driver can discuss any concerns they may have about their driving abilities and get advice on how to continue driving safely. The CHP officer can also provide information on other resources that may be helpful, such as driver education programs, occupational therapy, and adaptive equipment.
Overall, the CHP “Age Well, Drive Smart” program is a valuable resource for older drivers in California. It provides older drivers with the information and support they need to continue driving safely and maintain their independence for as long as possible. The program is also a wonderful way for older drivers to stay up to date on the latest safety information and to address any concerns they may have about their driving abilities.
It is important to note that, while this program is a great way to help older drivers stay safe on the road, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the older driver to make the decision to hang up the keys and stop driving when it is no longer safe to do so. It is also important to have regular check-ups with a physician and check the medications they take as they can affect driving.
Risk Factors For Aging Drivers
As we age, it is important to take into account how changes to your mental and physical health affect your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Common health conditions and medications may affect your driving skills.
Pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility in the joints, particularly in the hands, wrists, and fingers which are used to grip the steering wheel, and feet, and legs used to press the pedals can make it difficult to drive safely. It can also make it harder to turn your head and neck to check mirrors and blind spots. These symptoms can affect reaction time, coordination, and overall control of the vehicle. It is important for individuals with arthritis to work with their healthcare provider to manage their symptoms and to make any necessary adjustments to their vehicle to allow them to drive safely. This could include installing hand controls or pedal extenders or making sure the seat and steering wheel are adjusted to the right position.
As we age, our eyesight may change and it can become more difficult to see people, objects, or other cars moving outside of your direct line of sight. You may also have trouble reading road or traffic signs and seeing in the dark. This can make driving more challenging and increase the risk of accidents. To address these issues, it is important to visit your eye doctor regularly. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults over the age of 60 have an eye exam every 2 years. A comprehensive eye exam can detect vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, and your eye doctor can recommend treatment options, such as glasses or surgery, that can help improve your vision. Additionally, if your eyesight is poor, it is important to update your glasses.
As we age, our hearing may also change and it can become more difficult to notice horns, sirens, or even noises coming from your own car. Impaired hearing can make it harder to stay aware of your surroundings and respond to emergency situations on the road. This can increase the risk of accidents and make it more challenging to drive safely. To address these issues, it is important to have your hearing checked regularly. If you are experiencing hearing loss, your audiologist or hearing specialist can recommend treatment options such as hearing aids, which can improve your ability to hear and communicate while driving. Additionally, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to visual cues such as emergency lights or signals.
Some medications may affect your ability to safely operate a vehicle. It is important to be aware of the potential side effects of any medications you are taking, as they may make you feel drowsy, lightheaded, or less alert than usual. This can increase the risk of accidents and make it more challenging to drive safely. Before you start taking any new medications, it’s important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about any potential side effects and how they may affect your ability to drive.
Some medical conditions can affect your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Medical conditions that affect your coordination, balance, or your ability to control your movements, such as Parkinson’s disease or a stroke can make it unsafe to drive. Similarly, conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can affect memory and decision-making skills, making it no longer safe to drive. It is important to speak with your doctor about your medical conditions and how they may affect your ability to drive. They can advise you on whether or not it is safe for you to continue driving and provide alternative transportation options if necessary. Your doctor may also be able to provide you with resources, such as rehabilitation programs or support groups, that can help you manage your medical condition and continue to live an independent life.
Safety Tips For Aging Drivers
As we age, our driving abilities may change, and it can become more challenging to stay safe on the road. However, with a few adjustments and by following some simple safety tips, older drivers can continue to drive safely and maintain their independence.
Wear Your Seat Belt
Wearing a seat belt is one of the most important safety measures you can take while driving. It is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to reduce your risk of injury or death in the event of a crash. Make sure that your seat belt is adjusted properly and that it fits snugly across your lap and chest. A seat belt that is too loose or not adjusted
properly may not provide the level of protection you need in the event of a crash.
Speak With Your Doctor
Your doctor can help identify any health concerns that may affect your ability to drive safely, such as vision or hearing loss, cognitive impairment, or mobility issues. If your doctor has concerns about your ability to drive, they may recommend that you undergo a driving assessment. This is an evaluation of your driving skills and abilities, and can help identify any areas where you may need improvement. It’s important to note that your doctor’s recommendations may change over time based on your health and driving ability. Regular check-ins with your doctor can help you stay informed about any changes in your health and any adjustments you may need to make to your driving habits.
Upgrade Your Car
Newer cars come equipped with advanced safety features such as backup cameras, lane departure warning systems, and automatic emergency braking. These features can help older drivers avoid collisions and increase their overall safety on the road. It’s worth noting that if a new car is not affordable for you, there are still ways to improve the safety of your current car. There are various aftermarket equipment and devices that can be added to your current car to improve visibility, braking, and alertness.
Avoid Driving At Certain Times Of Day
Driving at certain times of day can be challenging for older adults, as age can affect vision, including night vision and glare sensitivity. It’s important to check-in with yourself and pay attention to any difficulties you may be experiencing while driving, such as glare from the sun or difficulty seeing at night. If you find that certain times of day are not safe for you to drive, consider alternative options such as public transportation, carpooling, or asking a friend or family member to drive you
Being prepared can help older drivers navigate the roads safely. By planning ahead, older drivers can reduce the risk of getting lost, getting caught in traffic, or experiencing unexpected challenges while on the road. It can also help them to anticipate and avoid situations that may cause difficulty or stress, leading to a safer and more enjoyable drive.
The CHP “Age Well, Drive Smart” program is an excellent resource for older drivers in California. It provides older drivers with the information and support they need to continue driving safely and maintain their independence for as long as possible. It promotes the awareness of the impact that prescription and non-prescription medications and supplements have on senior drivers and their ability to operate a vehicle safely. The program is also a terrific way for older drivers to stay up to date on the latest safety information and to address any concerns they may have about their driving abilities. To learn more about the program or sign up for a class, contact your local CHP office.
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