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Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

Aging is an inevitable process of life that many people do not want to confront, but the changes that are associated with growing older can affect many areas of life, including driving. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has designated December 2nd as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. Age increases bring about certain changes in physical, mental and sensory abilities that can affect a person’s ability to drive safely. This week is designed to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation in an older adult’s life to ensure that they remain active and confident. The AOTA believes that occupational therapy practitioners can play an important role in older adult’s life with their skills to evaluate a person’s overall ability to operate a vehicle safely and provide rehabilitation.
These occupational therapy practitioners work with older adults, along with their families and caregivers, to identify unique challenges to driving and find strategies that will help them live their life to its fullest. Throughout the week, the AOTA will be bringing attention to a different aspect of older driver safety each day. The first topic covered is focused on “Anticipating Changes That Can Affect Driving,” reminding people that some aging changes may be so minor that they go unnoticed, while others may interfere with daily life. Changes that affect driving may include slower reaction times, night blindness, and pains or stiffnesses. However, while these changes may affect driving skills, they do not necessarily prohibit driving. It is important to plan for transportation needs as you grow older and to find ways to cope with the changes. For example, attaching a cloth loop to a seatbelt can help drivers who find it painful to rotate their body to reach the seatbelt.

One proactive way for older adults to enhance safety behind the wheel is to ensure that their car’s adjustments are practical by attending a CarFit event. These programs, which can be located on the AOTA website, are free of charge. Volunteers at these events (occupational therapy practitioners) use a 12-point checklist to ensure that each driver’s car is adjusted properly and that safety features of the vehicle are thoroughly explained. Another important topic of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week raising awareness about “Family Conversations.” The entire week is intentionally held during December since that is the month when families are often together for the holiday season. One of the initial steps in addressing older driver safety is to have a calm and friendly conversation with loved ones since families and friends play a major role in discussions of driver safety. It is important that these conversations are held earlier rather than later, and that the older adult does not feel criticized or attacked. Another topic covered this week is “Screening and Evaluations with an Occupational Therapist” to remind older adults that it may be useful to get a check-up on his/her driving fitness. These services are known as “driving fitness evaluations,” which include self-assessments, educational tools to identify potential challenges, and a professional driving evaluation from an occupational therapy driving rehabilitation specialist. These evaluations can provide strengths for driving to the older adult given any changes in vision, physical ability and cognition that may have occurred.

While this week hopefully raises awareness about the importance of older adult driver safety, vehicle collisions can still occur, even when practicing safe driving methods. The attorneys at Spiros Law, P.C. are experienced with handling vehicle collision claims where damage was suffered due to the negligence of another person. If you or a loved one have found yourself in this position, contact us today at one of our Central Illinois offices to discuss your legal options with a qualified attorney.