Staying Safe as an Older Driver
By: Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
Age alone does not make an older adult an unsafe driver. But age-related changes can affect driving skill. These changes include poorer vision, reduced hearing, slowed reaction times, and less confidence in unfamiliar or busy environments.
Warning signs of unsafe driving
- Driving too fast or too slow for conditions
- Having trouble with lane changes or left-hand turns
- Lack of attention to objects in one’s peripheral vision
- Having minor ‘fender benders’ or near misses
- Noticing that other drivers are showing a lack of patience
Enhancing safe driving
The presence of these warning signs does not automatically mean it is time to give up the keys. There are many ways you can enhance safety as an older driver:
- Attend education and information sessions.
- Make sure the mirrors, seat, and so on are well adjusted and that your vehicle is in good working condition.
- Take a driver refresher course.
- Consult an occupational therapist or a certified driver rehabilitation specialist.
Many older adults continue to be safe drivers by making safe driving decisions, like these:
- Avoid driving situations in which you feel less confident
- Limit driving at night.
- Avoid driving in poor weather.
- Avoid driving at rush hour.
- Plan your route to avoid driving on limited access highways.
- Make a personal transportation plan, g. create a personal contract with yourself: “I will only drive during the day and during off peak hours. If I need to go out at night or during rush hour, I will arrange to ride with my daughter/neighbor/taxi service. If I am tired or not feeling well, I will use alternate transportation.”
- Become familiar with community mobility options, e.g. create a list of transportation options such as local taxi companies or ride share programs; make sure this information is readily available when you need it
Making a driving retirement plan
All drivers should confront the fact that their ability to drive may not continue throughout life. Before the effects of aging affect their ability to drive safely, older adults should start the transition to driving retirement. They should consider the options for getting around that will suit their needs within their community.
The role of occupational therapists
Occupational therapists are experts in helping their clients to do things that are important to them. Driving is an important activity. Occupational therapists can evaluate driving, develop programs to improve safe driving, and help create driving retirement plans.
Older driver safety is a priority for the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. We support projects like the National Blueprint for Injury Prevention in Older Drivers. This project promotes safe driving practices and works to prevent and reduce injury. We also advocate for community mobility services. These make our society more inclusive, and help all people take part fully in daily life.
- Visit https://www.caot.ca/document/5628/Older_Adults_EN.pdf for more information on safe driving practices.
About the Authors
By: Janet Craik MSc., OT Reg. (Ont.), OT (C) & Claudia von Zweck, PhD, OT Reg. (Ont.), OT(C) Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
Should I be Vaccinated?
Vaccines are not just for children. Immunizations are the most effective and long lasting protection against disease. It’s important to keep your immunizations up to date.
The ‘pneumonia vaccine’
Pneumococcal Disease or ‘PD’ is an infection caused by a type of bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae). When this bug invades the body, it can lead to serious illness, such as pneumonia. But the bacteria can also cause blood poisoning and meningitis, which is inflammation of the tissues around the brain and spinal cord.
PD bacteria can travel through the air and spread by close contact, through sneezing, coughing, or kissing. It can also be picked up from surfaces and objects. The most common signs and symptoms are fever, chills, sweat, aches and pains, and headaches.
Pneumococcal vaccination can prevent pneumonia and other infections caused by this bacteria. It is recommended for people 65 and older, and for those with conditions that affect the immune system, such as:
- Cancer, including leukemia
- Chronic heart, liver, or kidney disease
- Chronic lung disease (except asthma)
- Nephrotic syndrome
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Diabetes mellitus
- Chronic cerebrospinal fluid leak
- HIV infection and AIDS
- No spleen or a spleen that does not work properly
- Sickle cell disease.
About eight out of 10 cases occur in these high-risk groups. The vaccine protects about 65% per cent of people. Vaccination also makes the disease milder for those who may catch it. The pneumococcal vaccine has been used in Canada since 1983.
Are there side effects?
Side effects of pneumococcal vaccines are usually very mild. Occasionally, a fever may occur. It is also common for your arm to be a bit red, sore or swollen where the needle went in. Other possible side effects may include headaches or fatigue. Allergic reactions can occur.
Five tips for reducing your risk of contracting PD
- If you are over 65 or in a risk group, see your doctor about getting the vaccine.
- Wash your hands.
- Be active.
- Get enough sleep, as this can help to keep your immune system strong.
- Have regular check-ups with your doctor.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) makes recommendations for the use of vaccines in Canada. To see their guidelines, visit: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/naci-ccni.
The Canadian Public Health Association has information on adult immunization.