Rancho Santa Fe Senior Scene: To drive or not to drive?


By Terrie Litwin, RSF Senior Center, executive director

Whether to drive or not is an important question to address as we age. Owning and operating an automobile is essential to the identities of most Americans, however, statistics show that we can expect to live 7-10 years beyond our ability to drive safely. Driver safety is an important and often sensitive issue for seniors. The changes brought about by normal aging can sometimes interfere with the ability to drive. Because everyone ages differently, some individuals can continue to drive safely into their 80s and beyond while others cannot or should not. Statistics show that elderly drivers are more likely than other drivers to receive traffic citations for failing to yield, turning improperly and running red lights and stop signs – all indications of decreased driving ability. It is easy to overlook problems that develop slowly, over time, because we typically accommodate our daily activities to what we can comfortably do.

Consequently, issues like vision or hearing loss, decreasing physical activity, or the impact of prescription and over the counter medications may not be noticed and can make driving hazardous. There are environmental factors as well which affect senior drivers and include signs and road markings that are difficult to see or read, confusing intersections and older vehicles that lack automatic safety features.

Although older adults are at a higher risk for accidents than other age groups and are more likely to be seriously injured than younger drivers, they actually have lower rates of fatal crashes than teenage drivers. They are more likely to obey speed limits, wear safety belts, refrain from driving while under the influence of alcohol, and take fewer risks than other groups. Their adherence to traffic laws and rules of the road supports the contention that when older drivers have an accident, they are more likely to injure themselves than others. Also, license renewals drop for drivers in their 80s even as this age group expands, suggesting that many seniors recognize their diminished driving skills and choose alternate means of transportation. Some, rather than giving up driving completely, choose familiar, less challenging routes, avoid freeway driving, driving at night and other aspects of driving that could cause anxiety or accidents.

Please join us at the Senior Center on Wednesday, June 27, at 2 p.m. for an informative presentation that will include: methods for evaluating and improving driver safety, an overview of state policies related to aging and disabled drivers, strategies for initiating difficult discussions about driving, and an overview of local transportation alternatives. Program presenters are Amy Abrams, MSW/MPH, and Susan Bill, RN, with Eldercare Guides, a local geriatric care management company.

Save the Date

Annual July 4 Luncheon

at the Senior Center with

musical entertainment by

Dr. Jack Wheaton

Lunch served at 11:15 a.m.

Program begins at Noon

Community parade 1 p.m.