For millions of baby boomers across the country, the idea of driving a car equates to personal freedom and the ability to do what they want. However, as 10,000 boomers reach retirement age every day, their ability to get behind the wheel and operate a vehicle safely can no longer be taken for granted. Driving is the most dangerous task most people do on a daily basis, and every year hundreds of thousands of senior citizens are injured in automobile accidents, while thousands of others are killed. If you are a baby boomer who has retired or is nearing retirement, you need to be aware of how your driving abilities will change.
Senior Car Crashes on the Rise
According to figures from the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of people age 65 and older who are involved in automobile crashes that result in injuries or fatalities has risen significantly in recent years. In 2012, 5,560 seniors died as the result of automobile crashes, a rise of 3% over the 2011 figures. Also in 2012, 214,000 senior citizens suffered injuries in automobile accidents severe enough to require hospitalization. The 2012 numbers represents a 16% rise in the number of senior citizens who were injured in automobile crashes over the 2011 numbers.
The increase can largely be attributed both to the number of seniors on the road, as well as to how older bodies react to injuries. As more seniors get behind the wheel and are involved in automobile accidents, they are more likely to sustain more significant injuries.
Boomer Abilities Decreasing
The aging process brings with it a natural loss of both cognitive and physical abilities that can affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. For aging boomers, this means that they need to be aware of themselves and what they’re doing behind the road. Many people as they age, for example, experience a loss of reaction time and muscle control. Such a loss of reflexes can make boomer drivers more hesitant and slower to react to situations that can arise quickly.
Regardless of your age, you should always ensure that your vehicle is operating properly. Before getting onto the road, all boomer drivers should ensure that their rearview mirrors are properly adjusted, that they keep the steering column at least 10 inches from their chest at all times, and that they are able to easily access all control surfaces.
It’s also important to be aware of your physical abilities. Baby boomer should make it a point to have a physical exam every year. If you experience a decrease in abilities that can affect your driving, you need to start investigating alternatives.