According to some recent studies looking at drugged driving and the elderly, senior drivers could be the new face of intoxicated driving in America.
They say that age begets wisdom. Unfortunately, it can also herald a variety of health problems that require prescription medication. And many of those prescriptions have side effects that can be dangerous when trying to operate a vehicle.
Drugged driving among elderly drivers is, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, becoming increasingly problematic across the country.
Data collected by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety confirms that statement. It shows while 78 percent of drivers 55-years of age and older are taking prescription medications that could possibly impair their driving performance, only slightly fewer than one-quarter of those drivers know about the dangers.
Senior citizens are staying behind the wheel longer. As many as one out of every six drivers on U.S. roads today could be over the age of 65, according to one study. In fact, greater than three-quarters of men, and 60 percent of women, older than 85 years of age drive at least 5 days a week.
What makes those statistics a problem, is the fact that 90 percent of senior drivers say they are on at least one prescription medication, and two-thirds of those say they take more than one medication. Furthermore, many patients are unaware of the dangerous side effects of these medications.
In fact, while both sleeping pills and pain medication can have a dramatic impact on one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, one-third of senior female drivers say they take sleep aids and two-thirds take medication to control pain.
As reported by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, one bright spot is that many of these drivers monitor their driving behaviors. In fact:
- Three-quarters of senior drivers who use medication have reduced their amount of daily travel, and
- Senior drivers who take prescription medication avoid driving after dark at a rate twice that of younger drivers on prescription medication.
The following are preventative measures that can be taken to help everyone stay safer on the road. If you have a loved one who is a senior driver, you can:
- Read the medication warning labels for dangerous side effects that could possibly impair their driving, including drowsiness and loss of concentration.
- Talk to your loved one about adjusting their driving schedule if it is necessary for them to take their medication at a certain time.
- Use free tools such as roadwiserx.com to better understand the possible side effects and drug interactions associated with a particular prescription medication.
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