by Matt Gurwall, (keepingussafe.com)
With each passing year, each of us knows that the day is coming when we will lose some of our personal independence. Driving an automobile is one of the most important privileges of being an independent adult. And it is a privilege most of never want to give up.
Weighing the factors about whether it is time to retire from your driving career can be an extremely complex task. However, from the simplest of perspectives, the key to extending one’s safe driving career can be summed up in just two words; self awareness. Each of us must have the self-awareness to recognize any personal physical or mental deterioration that might affect our ability to drive safely.
Although hanging up the car keys is rarely simple or easy, I believe that self-awareness is the foundation for keeping us safe drivers for as long as possible, as we progress through the aging process.
Physiological functions such as vision and hearing, reflexes, memory, agility, muscle and bone strength, are obviously very important in our ability to remain safe drivers. Many of these functions naturally diminish as we get older. Changes can also be aggravated by medications, depression, and even loneliness.
We also need to remember that accidents are more likely to cause serious or fatal injury an older person, regardless of who is at fault. In two-car fatal collisions, where one driver is 70 or older, the older driver is 3.5 times more likely to be killed. Injuries that are seen as moderate to severe for most people are often fatal to people aged 70 and older.
The key to maintaining your self-awareness is to be very cognizant and alert to what others are saying to you. Your doctor, clergy member, an occupational therapist, a driving assessor, your spouse, children and other relatives, friends or even a trusted neighbor are all great sources of information. By being receptive and listening to what these people are gently trying to tell you, you can avoid having a future discussion with the police, a tow-truck driver, your insurance agent, emergency room physicians, your attorney and the court system, the news media, or someone else’s grieving family.