Driving can sometimes be challenging for seniors, even more so if they use their cellphone while driving. A recent survey released by The University of California San Diego School of Medicine reveals that 60% of seniors (65+) talk on their cellphones while driving. Experts say that this type of “distracted driving” increases the risk of crash four-fold, and is equivalent to driving with a 0.08 blood alcohol level. Going “hands free” or using Bluetooth doesn’t necessarily solve the problem either, because the brain is required to multi-task, which takes your mind off of what you’re doing (also called “inattention blindness”). California law strictly prohibits texting and using cell phones while driving.
Here are some tips to ensure seniors are driving safely:
- Turn your cell phone off when you get into the car – this is the simplest and most effective way to ensure that seniors are not using their phone while driving. When turning off the cell phone becomes as routine as putting on your seat belt, a habit is built that greatly increases the driver’s safety.
- Take a “Defensive Driving” course through AAA or an online traffic school – AAA has created a Defensive Driving course that is designed specifically for seniors. This online course covers the following topics: distractions, drowsiness, aggressive driving and road rage, managing visibility, time and space, alcohol & medications, and comfort and safety tips.
- Most importantly, pay extra attention to senior’s driving skills – behavioral changes like forgetfulness, loss of coordination, hearing loss, dizziness, visual changes and difficulty following directions can negatively impact a senior’s driving abilities. Keep your loved one’s safety in mind when you consider whether they should get behind the wheel.
When seniors are no longer able to drive – either voluntarily or due to a medical issue – there are many other options for transportation. Seniors will often elect to use ride services such as Uber or Lyft. GoGoGrandparent is a similar concierge service that connects seniors with on-demand rides and does not require a smartphone.
Seniors may also seek out an Assisted Living community. Many of these residential communities will offer ride services in addition to providing assistance with the activities of daily living.