Building confidence through retraining and the implementation of modifications may be the key to safer, extended mobility for older adults, according to a new study by AAA.
Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that older drivers who recognized their own lack of confidence behind the wheel adjusted their driving patterns or reduced trips to avoid situations in which they felt nervous.
Self-regulation is a reasonable and responsible choice for drivers who find themselves uncomfortable behind the wheel in certain situations. But, older drivers should remember to seek professional advice before letting their newfound changes in driving habits become the norm. Overregulation can lead to lost mobility and freedom.
“When older drivers become uncomfortable in certain driving situations, they may assume they have to live with the discomfort rather than proactively seeking help,” said Diana Imondi, Traffic safety Programs Manager for AAA Northeast. “By addressing issues of discomfort early, older drivers can learn more about age-related changes to their body and discuss strategies with their healthcare provider to best compensate for any declines.”
Foundation researchers and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute set out to discover how drivers’ comfort levels affected their driving behaviors. They found that drivers who were less confident driving at night, on the highway, in rush hour traffic or in unfamiliar areas simply avoided those situations.
Mobility experts say there are other options. Physical discomfort or apprehension can spark a conversation with a physician about ways to overcome these perceived barriers to safe driving.
“Don’t let these concerns limit your mobility or safety when your doctor may help you find ways to address them,” said Ms. Imondi. “Oftentimes, simple adjustments to your vehicle, a driver refresher course or a change to your prescription medications can improve comfort and safety behind the wheel. The key is to speak up about it.”
An occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialist can also help older drivers determine the cause of anxiety – and find solutions.
Seniors can use tools offered by AAA like Driver65Plus to determine strengths and weaknesses and learn ways to sharpen driving skills.