A recent report by AAA showed that more than 80 percent of drivers age 65 and older regularly take medication, but only half of them have talked to medical professionals about safety issues related to driving.
Older adults who drive past age 80 have been associated with a five times greater risk of getting into a fatal accident when compared to middle aged drivers, according to a recent Consumer Reports analysis. As a driver ages, sight, reflexes and mental acuity decrease and make it harder for them hit the brakes in time.
Considering there are more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, AAA is promoting Roadwise Rx, a tool that helps educate seniors on how medications may affect their ability to get behind the wheel. The tool details common side effects to prescription and over the counter medications and how these medications, herbal supplements and foods, interact with each other.
Medications like antidepressants have been associated with a 41 percent higher risk of crashing while ingredients like Diphenhydramine, found in cold and allergy medications that can be obtained over the counter, can have the same effect as being of the legal alcohol limit.
"Earlier research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly one out of five older drivers use five or more prescription medications," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "With medical conditions typically on the rise as people age, and treatment often dependent on medicinal interventions, there was a critical need to develop a tool to help older drivers understand the safety risk. Roadwise Rx is the only tool of its kind that looks at medications and associated driving hazards."
AAA estimates that by 2020, nearly one in six people will be age 65 or older, and most of them will still have a driver's license.
Driving provides a valued freedom for seniors, which is why many wish to continue the activity. There are other options out there for seniors looking to increase safety on the road. Many vehicles manufactured today have features that are geared to help seniors, including larger buttons, backup cameras and systems that warn drivers when they are veering out of their lane.
It is also important to keep up with service and maintenance checks to ensure a car's systems are working properly, significantly reducing the risk of an accident.