Although a person can continue driving a vehicle when he gets older, it is a fact that it may become more and more difficult for an individual to drive comfortably as age catches on. There are many health factors that could affect the driving competency of an elderly person. Besides, the risk of medical emergencies is much higher in aged people. This can lead to road accidents that can endanger many lives, especially when speeding on highways and flyovers.
Impaired vision is one of the biggest concerns in the elderly. While many of them suffer from reduced night vision, others have developing cataract or glaucoma that can distort images when driving after sunset, when artificial lights illuminate the streets and the headlights of the vehicles coming from the opposite direction can leave the person temporarily blinded. The level of visual impairment in a person can only be assessed correctly by an ophthalmologist.
With age, there may also be a decrease in an individual’s concentration capacity as well as spatial orientation, both of which are vital when driving. Hearing loss is another major problem. Sensorineural deafness is a normal part of the aging process. Although car mirrors can be used to compensate for the problem and hearing aids can be used to amplify the sounds, there is yet the need to be doubly cautious. People with vestibular diseases should avoid driving.
Senior citizens suffering from cerebrovascular conditions such as vasovagal syncope, transient ischemic attacks (TIA), and dementia should never drive. People with deteriorating mental faculties must not be allowed to drive until a complete neurological assessment is done by a neurologist. Similarly, individuals with musculoskeletal problems like reduced coordination, decreased muscle strength, and limited range of movements should be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon.
Cardiovascular disorders can also increase a person’s chances of meeting with an accident when driving; therefore patients with unstable angina, coronary artery disease, and uncontrolled hypertension should avoid reaching out for the steering wheel. People over 60 years of age tend to be on a number of medications. Those on narcotic preparations, sedatives, tricyclic antidepressants, anxiolytics, antiemetics, skeletal muscle relaxants, antihistamines, and antipsychotics should not drive as they may get drowsy or inattentive.
If a person is a known case of diabetes mellitus, is compliant, and does not have any history of severe hypoglycemic episodes in the last 6 months, it may be okay for him to drive. However, noncompliant patients and those with unstable metabolic control should not be permitted to drive as the wide fluctuations in their blood sugar levels or their uncontrolled diabetes can trigger fainting attacks, whereby the patient is bound to lose control over the vehicle. Insulin-dependent diabetics are more prone to develop such problems, if they do not follow a routine.