By Dr. Gerard Muraida
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in 1971 released the rock and roll song Hot –rod Lincoln. It speaks of racing and how a father deals with his offspring’s reckless driving. It is a fast paced song that almost puts you in the passenger seat next to the singer.
As we age those reflexes that have kept us out of trouble on the highway slow down. Not only does our reflex time increase but our vision becomes less sharp
Let’s examine our eyesight first. Common senior eye problems include glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts. Glare from on-coming headlights or from streetlights can be particularly troublesome. This is especially worse at sunrise, sunset, and at night. Once-familiar places may look different in different lighting conditions and cause some angst. This can result in getting lost, turning short trips into very long outings. Street signs may be difficult to read and traffic lights may be confusing.
Hearing acuity, too, diminishes as we age. Honking cars, sirens from emergency vehicles, and even warning noises inside the car may be hard to hear. Prescriptive hearing aids can help a great deal.
We all have muscle aches and pains as we age. This is particularly true if orthopedic procedures have been done or if orthopedic conditions exist. Nerve entrapment syndromes, often referred to as neuropathy can lead to pain and may cause hesitation and slow reaction. Neuropathic pain has been associated with diabetes, physical injury, burns, and some types of chemotherapy. Parkinson’s disease and strokes can affect one’s ability to react and respond to changing driving conditions. Sleep apnea and related breathing disorders can cause daytime somnolence.
Medications can cause drowsiness and/or lightheadedness, decreasing alertness. Check with your provider to determine if any of your medications cause these symptoms.
Here are some important safe-driving tips:
- Avoid rush-hour traffic
- Drive mid-day when possible.
- Avoid nighttime driving
- Plan short trips
- Brake early when anticipating stopping
- Add extra distance between cars
- Always wear your glasses when driving.
- Avoid driving in rain or snow.
- Stay off unfamiliar roads or interstates that might cause confusion.
If you feel like you may have a problem driving, consider taking either a defensive driving course or undergo a driving rehabilitation evaluation.
Remember that school will be back in session soon and school zones speed limits will be enforced.
Signs of poor driving may include multiple vehicle crashes; “near misses;” new dents in one’s car; two or more traffic tickets or warnings within the last two years; and increases in car insurance premiums because of driving issues. Family, friends and neighbors may comment about poor driving, so heed their warnings.
Please talk to you provider about driving and how you are handling your hot rod Lincoln!