As drivers get older, their ability to safely drive a car gradually declines. Changes in cognitive function, motor abilities, physical coordination, eyesight, and judgment are all challenges senior drivers face.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) offers tips on how senior drivers can stay healthy -- and behind the wheel longer. These tips involve routine exercise and stretching.
Elderly driver risk factors
AAA based this information on data from Columbia University, which evaluated eight domains – depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbances, pain interference, physical function, pain intensity and participation in social events. These domains were taken into consideration when determining how changes in physical, mental, and social health impact driving abilities in elderly people.
According to Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, elderly people who stop driving likely suffer from depression.
“It is important that we find ways to keep older drivers in good physical health in order to extend their mobility,” he said.
Driving requires the ability to maintain control of the wheel and steer a car, stay alert and focused, react quickly to hazards, and be able to observe surroundings from all angles. Research shows that daily exercise and stretching can help do this. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. It simply involves making a habit of being physically active on a daily basis.
Exercises and stretches that can prolong safe driving
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that seniors engage in balance training, aerobic exercise and strength training after first consulting with a doctor, including:
- Between 2.5 - 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise
- 75 minutes - 2.5 hours of high-intensity physical activity
In addition, senior drivers should get at least seven hours of sleep per night and consult with a healthcare provider to discuss ways to lower fatigue.
In order to improve flexibility, AAA recommends that older drivers do the following stretches:
- Shoulder stretches: According to AAA, this can help older drivers with steering, preventing fatigue, backing up and checking mirrors.
- Chin flexion-extension: This stretch help older drivers with adjusting mirrors and preventing fatigue.
- Foot stretches: This can help senior drivers maintain control of the gas pedal and brakes. It can also prevent stiffness and cramping that may occur over time.
- Neck rotation: This stretch can help older drivers look over their shoulders to check blind spots. In addition, it can be helpful for parallel parking, adjusting mirrors, backing up, and preventing fatigue.
- Press ups: This stretch can help older drivers maintain back flexibility, which is important for parallel parking and backing up.
- Trunk rotation: This can be useful for parallel parking, backing up, adjusting mirrors, and looking to the side and back.
Most importantly, these exercises and stretches can help prevent crashes among seniors who still drive. Sadly, many crashes involving older drivers tend to occur before the issue of prolonged driving ability is addressed. If you or a loved one was injured in a crash, the Florida attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott M. Miller, PLLC can help. Contact us today to learn more.