Drowsiness & the Older Driver

older driver alert

Introduction

Drowsy driving can diminish a driver’s alertness, attention, reaction time, judgment and decision-making, which is sure to lead to a greater chance of an automobile crash.  At its extreme, drowsy driving can even lead to the often fatal error of falling asleep at the wheel.

The purpose of this article is to provide you with:

  • a broad description of just what drowsiness is and what some of the causes can be
  • provide you with a brief explanation of what drowsy driving is
  • show how drowsiness can affect a driver of any age
  • show how drowsiness can be especially detrimental to an older driver

The above points summarize the purpose of this article.  The real objective of this article, however, is to provide valuable information that will increase overall awareness of the detrimental effect drowsy driving can have on drivers of any age, but particularly on our aging population.  Hopefully, this article can help keep at least one older driver from falling prey to the highway death trap known as drowsy driving

What exactly is drowsy driving?

The Texas Transportation Institute succinctly defines drowsy driving as “the operation of a motor vehicle while being impaired by a lack of sleep”.

Drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving that negatively affects a person’s ability to drive safely. Most people associate impaired driving with alcohol or drugs, but in this situation, drowsiness is the primary cause.  Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as distracted driving or even drunk or drugged driving.  Studies show that driving after being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, the legal limit in all states.

So what are some sleep disorders that may eventually morph themselves into a drowsy driver?  Physiologicsleepy driveral factors such as sleep apnea and other sleep-related breathing disorders, insomnia, narcolepsy, parasomnias, nightmares, restless leg and other movement disorders, drug interactions, and Circadian Rhythm disorder, just to name a few!

And then we can throw fuel on those fires by adding ancillary complications like shift work or having worked a few extra hours, extended driving in the sun or in the rain, driving at times of the day when you would normally be sleeping, driving after having been awake for a long time. 

How can drowsiness affect driving abilities?

Drowsiness can impair drivers of any age by causing slower reaction times, compromised vision and coordination, lapses in judgment and delays in processing information. 

Speaking in more general terms, sleep deprivation has been linked to higher levels of stress, higher blood pressure levels and lower brain function. It’s safe to say that your driving performance will likely suffer if you aren’t getting the right sleep. Driving while drowsy can:

  • erode your ability to pay attention to your driving environment
  • challenge your defensive driving skills and overall situational awareness
  • slow your reaction time, especially if you have to brake or steer suddenly
  • compromise your ability to make good decisions

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep only 6 to 7 hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a sleep-related crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more.  People sleeping less than 5 hours per night increase their risk four to five times.  NHTSA’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study (NMVCCS), reports that drowsy drivers are twice as likely to make driving performance errors as compared to drivers who are not fatigued.

How can drowsiness affect an older driver?

As we continue our way through the natural aging process, we may eventually lose some of our safe driving skills.  Don’t shoot the messenger, but it is well documented that there is a positive correlation between increasing age and a diminishment in safe driving skills.  In fact, did you know that AAA estimates that on average, we outlive our safe driving abilities by 7-10 years?

blurred driving

As we get older, some of us may begin to experience cognitive and/or physical declines.  Our memory, reaction time and vision may begin to slip.  Our ability to quickly look left or right to check our blind spot may be challenged.  We may start to experience numbness or pain in our hands and feet, we may not hear (or see!) that we’ve left our turn signal on, and the list goes on. 

Now…factor in drowsiness to the already potentially dangerous situation of an older driver’s diminishing driving skills.  Maybe we’re not sleeping well, have developed sleep apnea, or insomnia.  Maybe a new medication is keeping us awake at night, or making us tired. 

Having age-related diminished driving skills is one thing.  Being tired while driving is another, and alone, each pose its own compartment of dangers.  But the synergistic effect of both of them together is certain to increase the likelihood of a highway tragedy.      

And a completely avoidable tragedy at that.   

Conclusion

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths in 2013, but those numbers are not exact and could actually be much higher.  The issue is important enough that NHTSA has made drowsy driving one of four safety priorities, which already include drunk, drugged and distracted driving. 

Just last month, the Iowa Department of Public Safety and the University of Iowa held a Drowsy Driver Summit, billed as the “first-in-the-nation event” to figure out a statewide strategy, which includes much more than just new legislation and heavier traffic enforcement, to effectively battle this dangerous and deadly issue.      

Please note that National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, is scheduled for November 6 – 13, 2016.  More information on drowsy driving (including tips on how to prevent drowsy driving) can be found on the National Sleep Foundation’s website.  

Final Words

Apart from drivers ensuring that they simply get enough sleep, experts believe that promoting more widespread understanding of the problem is an important step in reducing crash frequency.

As mentioned earlier, the hopes are that this article will help to increase overall awareness on the causes and effects of drowsy driving, particularly as they relate to older drivers. 

But more than that, it is hoped that this document can help keep at least one older driver in America from falling prey to the highway death trap known as drowsy driving.

About the author

Matt Gurwell is the founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC,  a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families.   

sleepy dog

 

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3 easy ways to double-check a loved one’s safe driving abilities this July 4th weekend

family cookout

Few days are more significant to American patriotism than the Fourth of July, in which we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  That Declaration proclaimed to the world our separation from Great Britain and our emergence as a new sovereign nation, “Under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

As well as a time to celebrate our independence, the holiday serves as a great opportunity for millions of Americans to travel back home to reconnect with old friends and neighbors and to visit with family and loved ones.  As we celebrate country and family, the weekend is sure to be filled with picnics, barbeques, parades, and of course…fireworks.

Going home for the holidays has layers of significance for adult children, particularly those who live out of town. It remains a time of togetherness and love, but it can also be a great opportunity to observe your parents to determine if their physical and cognitive skills are still sufficient for safe driving. 

While visiting with loved-ones this weekend, ask yourself the following questions about an aging parent’s safe driving abilities:

Has your parent fallen in the past year?

Recent research has established a definite correlation between falls and older driver crash involvement.  According to an article published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, older adults that have fallen two or more times in the previous year may be at a higher risk of being involved in an at-fault car crash.  Keeping Us Safe Fall Prevention

The study, conducted by the Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, and the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also reported that older drivers who fell two or more times in the prior year were 1.5 times as likely to be involved in an accident and two times as likely to be involved in an at-fault accident.

The study’s bottom line; a history of frequent falling can serve as a valid indicator in identifying older drivers that are at a higher risk for future traffic accidents.  That’s pretty significant!

Are your parents physically active?

Exercise can help improve an older driver’s flexibility, coordination, strength, balance and range of motion.  Simple stretching exercises can help an older driver look left or right more easily to check their blind spots, or to help ensure a safe lane change.  Exercise can also help an older driver turn their neck and body to look behind them before backing.  How many tragedies have we read about where an older driver backed over a pedestrian in a parking lot or in some cases, a family member in their own driveway?

A 2014 study by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the M.I.T. Age Lab looked at the drivers who exercised for 15-20 minutes daily.  The study participants reported greater ease in turning their heads to look in blind spots when changing lanes or backing up, compared with a similar group that did not exercise.  The exercise group could also rotate their bodies easily to scan the road when making right hand turns compared with non-exercisers.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Senior Health website offers specific exercises on improving endurance, strength, flexibility and balance.

How is your loved-one’s memory holding up?

In the family setting, the issue surrounding the important role memory plays in older driver safety is often understated or even overlooked all together.  For obvious reasons, when we discuss age related diminished driving skills in older adults, we tend to focus on the physical attributes of safe driving (vision, reflexes, strength, flexibility, hearing, etc.), and may overlook the crucial role memory plays in keeping older drivers safe. memory-supplements

For any one of us, a significant decline in our memory can lead to disaster if we continue to drive without first making appropriate adjustments in out driving behavior and habits.  Continuing to drive while ignoring noticeable memory decline can lead to tragedy, either through a car accident, or by unknowing becoming an excellent candidate for a victim of crime.

Older drivers that get lost may become confused and distracted by their unnerving circumstances.  As they find themselves unaware of their surroundings, they are likely to develop a strong case of tunnel vision.  The older driver may morph into a state of confusion, frustration and fear.  They lose their ability to focus on the task at hand (the physical act of driving) and instead, concentrate on getting themselves back to familiar surroundings.

The older driver’s ability to focus on driving has been overwhelmed by their desire to re-orient themselves.  In many cases, the individual may become scared and often times, tragedy becomes imminent.

A quick reminder for all of us

According to AAA, travel by car is expected to be up 1.2 percent over last year’s Independence Day, with 5 million more Americans hitting the road compared with the Memorial Day holiday just a few weeks ago. 

The stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the 100 deadliest days of the year on the nation’s roads.  Independence Day finds itself right in the middle and even at the pinnacle of this deadly stretch.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that July 4th is consistently the deadliest day of the year on America’s roadways.  Adrian Lund, president, IIHS. “If everyone buckles up, avoids distractions, obeys the speed limit and doesn’t drink and drive, we can make July Fourth and every day on the road a lot safer.”  That’s excellent advice for all of us!

Summary

Use your trip home for the holiday weekend as a time to humbly thank the individuals that gave us our Declaration of Independence, which will remain for future generations of Americans the beacon of liberty, the upholder of our divine unalienable rights, and the guardian of our independence.  Use it to re-unite with family and friends but also, use this time to take just a few minutes to make sure your parents’ physical and cognitive skills are still conducive to safe driving.

Conclusion

If you believe there are concerns with a loved-one’s driving skills, consider “Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for the families of older drivers”, or Keeping Us Safe’s Enhanced Self-Assessment Program for older drivers.

To learn more about Keeping Us Safe’s programs, please visit our website at www.keepingussafe.org.  Specific inquiries made be made by email at info@keepingussafe.org or by telephone at 877-907-8841.

About the author:  Matt Gurwell is founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC,  a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families.   

Independence Day parade

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Unique Program Developed to Help Worried Employees Return to Productive, Engaged and Focused Workplace Contributors

EAP_signpost

The Purpose

The purpose of this article is to identify an issue that many of your employees are likely to experience throughout the course of their careers, and to offer employers a solution that will keep these valued employees from lapsing into a preventable state of distraction and worry in the first place.

It has been well documented that if employee problems are left un-addressed, they will ultimately have a negative impact on the organization’s bottom line.  According to a 2013 Gallop report, ‘active disengagement’ by employees costs United States employers an estimated $550 billion annually.  Combine this with the fact that an average of 15 people ages 65+ die in car accidents every day in the United States, and you now have a potential new problem in the workplace.

Earlier this year, Caring.com conducted a nationwide survey that showed a whopping 60% of family caregivers say their caregiving duties have a negative effect on their job.  In a similar study, MetLife reports that employees who are also caregivers cost employers at least 8% more in healthcare costs.  These same caregivers are often faced with the issue of worrying about mom or dad’s safety as drivers, which establishes the premise of this article.

The Problem

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that on average, we out live our safe driving years by 7-10 years.  For those of us still in the work force, that means there may very well come a day when we become concerned about a loved one’s safe driving abilities.  In its early days, those initial concerns are very manageable and will likely require no outside assistance.  However, if left unaddressed, those initial ‘concerns’ can easily morph into a deeper rooted worry or even fear, which is sure to erode the employee’s well-being and otherwise high level of productivity.

Beyond Driving with Dignity

To add to the complexity of the problem, the issue of taking the keys away from a parent has been known to divide entire families.  Adult siblings, otherwise close to each other their entire lives, can end up at war with each other (and/or with their parents) on how best to address the driving issue.  Imagine the stress this is likely to cause for an otherwise very productive employee.  In some cases, if not handled properly, this family issue can even result in tragedy.

One must wonder how many employees lost work time as a result of these preventable tragedies:

  • “Elderly man runs over, drags and kills woman at Costco gas station”, KTAR News,       Scottsdale, AZ
  • “Two 6-year-olds pinned against Walgreen’s wall by elderly driver”, ABC News, San     Francisco, CA
  • “Man, 77, crashes car into Maryland Sam’s Club; bystander needs amputation”, The     Huffington Post, New York, NY

The list of people adversely affected by any one of these completely avoidable tragedies is infinitely long.  Many lives have been affected…forever.  The short list of affected employees includes immediate family members of the older driver and the victims, extended family members, witnesses, property owners, neighbors, etc.

Imagine for a moment how heavy the hearts were of any adult children from the above tragedies when they finally returned to work.  Sadly, the employee may struggle, sometimes for the rest of their lives, with a sense of ‘I should have done more to get mom to quit driving.’

The Solution

employees-motivated-to-work-harder-when-appreciated

The sole mission and purpose of Keeping Us Safe and our “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program is to work with families to help older drivers with diminished driving skills make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat before tragedy strikes.

Keeping Us Safe’s self-assessment program for older drivers is an early intervention program, designed (in part) to relieve a valued employee’s distress surrounding an elderly parent’s driving.

Having taken appropriate and effective action through timely use of the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program, employees will no longer obsessively dwell on the driving safety of mom or dad. Your valued employees will be able to focus on organizational goals and job responsibilities and will not be distracted by concerns over their loved one’s safety and the risk they might be posing to others.  Bringing a peaceful resolve to the senior’s driving issue will surely bring the worried employee’s concentration, focus and organizational skills back to the expected level of performance.

Conclusion

According to AARP, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day for the next 18 years!  Professionals, academia and the general public often refer to this trend as the Silver Tsunami.  The issue of age related diminished driving skills is not going away anytime soon.  It has been said that organizations that do not have a plan in place to address the driving issue with families, will soon be surpassed by the ones that do.

Keeping Us Safe’s “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program can help employers:

  • Decrease healthcare costs
  • Enhance employee well-being
  • Increase employee productivity
  • Improve employee engagement
  • Reduce employee absenteeism, and
  • Strengthened recruitment and employee retention

In addition to saving lives, proper utilization of this program will arm managers with yet another tool in dealing with difficult, complex and sensitive employee issues.  If you are an employer, human resource coordinator, benefits coordinator or an EAP professional, and are interested in learning more about this problem-solving program, please feel free to contact us at 877-907-8841, or visit the Keeping Us Safe website at www.keepingussafe.org.

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3 Tips to Help Monitor Older Driver Abilities This Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial-Day

Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.  Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, picnics and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.

But did you know that historically, the stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the 100 deadliest days of the year on the nation’s roads?  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that Memorial Day weekend is the single most dangerous weekend on America’s roads.

Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council says “As Americans gear up for the most carefree months of the year, we cannot take our safety for granted.  Driving is one of the riskiest things we do every day. Engaging our defensive driving skills and staying alert can mean the difference between attending cookouts and family parties or spending the evening at the emergency room or worse.”

Ms. Hersman’s comments are spot-on.  Going home for the holidays has layers of significance for adult children, particularly those who live out of town. It remains a time of togetherness and love, but it’s also an opportunity to observe your parents to determine if their physical and cognitive skills are still sufficient for safe driving.  Following are three tips to help you gauge your loved-one’s driving abilities:

Has your parent fallen in the past year?

Keeping Us Safe Fall Prevention

Recent research has established a definite correlation between falls and older driver crash involvement.  According to an article published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, older adults that have fallen two or more times in the previous year may be at a higher risk of being involved in an at-fault car crash.

The study, conducted by the Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, and the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also reported that older drivers who fell two or more times in the prior year were 1.5 times as likely to be involved in an accident and two times as likely to be involved in an at-fault accident.

The study’s bottom line; a history of frequent falling can serve as a valid indicator in identifying older drivers that are at a higher risk for future traffic accidents.  That’s pretty significant!

Are your parents physically active?

Exercise can help improve an oldKeeping Us Safe Exercise and Older Driverser driver’s flexibility, coordination, strength, balance and range of motion.  Simple stretching exercises can help an older driver look left or right more easily to check their blind spots, or to help ensure a safe lane change.  Exercise can also help an older driver turn their neck and body to look behind them before backing.  How many tragedies have we read about where an older driver backed over a pedestrian in a parking lot or in some cases, a family member in their own driveway?

A 2014 study by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the M.I.T. Age Lab looked at the drivers who exercised for 15-20 minutes daily.  The study participants reported greater ease in turning their heads to look in blind spots when changing lanes or backing up, compared with a similar group that did not exercise.  The exercise group could also rotate their bodies easily to scan the road when making right hand turns compared with non-exercisers.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Senior Health website offers specific exercises on improving endurance, strength, flexibility and balance.

How is your loved-one’s memory holding up?

In the family setting, the issue surrounding the important role memory plays in older driver safety is often understated or even overlooked all together.  For obvious reasons, when we discuss age related diminished driving skills in older adults, we tend to focus on the physical attributes of safe driving (vision, reflexes, strength, flexibility, hearing, etc.), and may overlook the crucial role memory plays in keeping older drivers safe.

Beyond Driving with Dignity

For any one of us, a significant decline in our memory can lead to disaster if we continue to drive without first making appropriate adjustments in out driving behavior and habits.  Continuing to drive while ignoring noticeable memory decline can lead to tragedy, either through a car accident, or by unknowing becoming an excellent candidate for a victim of crime.

Older drivers that get lost may become confused and distracted by their unnerving circumstances.  As they find themselves unaware of their surroundings, they are likely to develop a strong case of tunnel vision.  The older driver may morph into a state of confusion, frustration and fear.  They lose their ability to focus on the task at hand (the physical act of driving) and instead, concentrate on getting themselves back to familiar surroundings.

The older driver’s ability to focus on driving has been overwhelmed by their desire to re-orient themselves.  In many cases, the individual may become scared and often times, tragedy becomes imminent.

Summary

Use your trip home for the holiday weekend as a time to honor the men and women that have sacrificed their lives for our Country.  Use it to re-unite with family and friends and to kick-off the start of summer, but also, take just a few minutes to make sure your parents’ physical and cognitive skills are still conducive to safe driving.

If you believe there are concerns with a loved-one’s driving skills, consider “Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for the families of older drivers”, or Keeping Us Safe’s Enhanced Self-Assessment Program for older drivers.

To learn more about Keeping Us Safe’s programs, please visit our website at www.keepingussafe.org.  Specific inquiries made be made by email at info@keepingussafe.org or by telephone at 877-907-8841.

About the author:  Matt Gurwell is founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC,  a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families.   

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Dallas, Texas Professional Receives Keeping Us Safe’s National “Bill & Betty Fresch Outstanding Achievement Award”

Brent Murray1

Brent Murray

winner of the 

 2015 Bill and Betty Fresch

Outstanding Achievement Award”

 

Keeping Us Safe is proud to announce that Brent Murray of Dallas, Texas, is the recipient of the 2015 “Bill and Betty Fresch Outstanding Achievement Award”.

Keeping Us Safe is a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families throughout the United States. Its ‘Beyond Driving with Dignity’ program is designed to save lives while simultaneously helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with the very challenging issue of an elderly parent’s diminishing driving skills.

A Lewisville, Texas resident, Brent Murray received certification in the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program in November, 2011. Brent holds degrees in business and logistics and has worked in the transportation industry for over 35 years.

Brent taught classes in logistics at Michigan’s Baker College for 9 years and served as a third party examiner for the State of Michigan, administering the road tests for individuals trying to qualify for their driver’s licenses. Brent is currently the DOT Safety and Compliance Manager for Commercial Metals Company in Irving, TX.

“Brent is most deserving of this award” says Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe. “Brent’s professionalism, sincerity and enthusiasm have made him very effective in helping older drivers with diminished driving skills make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat.” Gurwell adds.

As a “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professional, Brent serves as a facilitator for Keeping Us Safe’s self-assessment program for older drivers. This individualized program serves as a valuable tool in helping older drivers (and their concerned families) make appropriate decisions regarding the future of one’s safe driving career.

The 3-hour, one-on-one session is typically conducted in the comfort of the older driver’s home. The session includes an in-depth learning conversation, several cognitive exercises, and an actual driving exercise with the older driver that takes place in his or her own car.

The award is named after the late Bill & Betty Fresch, who died in a Pennsylvania farm field after becoming lost on what was always a routine 40 minute drive home from their daughter Jo Rinehart’s residence. The January 13, 2011, Washington Post article reporting the tragedy read Elderly couple found frozen to death after getting lost during drive.

Keeping Us Safe and the Fresch family have since partnered to help similar tragedies from happening to other families. “The Fresch family has been very gracious in sharing their very difficult story with others” says Matt Gurwell. “As difficult as it is to talk about the incident, they have risen above that and see the sharing of their story as an opportunity to help others deal with this very delicate and emotional situation, before tragedy strikes their family” concluded Gurwell.

 

Bill and Betty FreschBill & Betty Fresch

 

Jeanne Nagle, Jo Rinehart and Paul Fresch (adult children of the late Bill & Betty Fresch) explain “The Fresch family appreciates the good work done by Keeping Us Safe. We are honored that our parents’ story can be used by this program to help others. We extend our sincere thanks to Mr. Brent Murray for his unwavering enthusiasm and dedication to this cause.”

“Brent was selected as the recipient for this award because of his unwavering dedication and compassion in helping older adults. In addition to being very well respected in the community, Brent also exemplifies the standards and core values of Keeping Us Safe. His compassion and empathy when working with older drivers with diminished driving skills make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat make him an invaluable asset to the Keeping Us Safe team.” says Gurwell. 

 

2 Happiness consists in giving, and in service of others. -  Hen

Are you interested in becoming one of No. America’s Certified 

“Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals?  
 
If so, click here to learn more about this life-saving program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Preparing to Become an “Older” Driver

Here are 3 easy steps we can take now to prepare ourselves for “older” driver status!

 

Take these 3 vitamins today to avoid pain killers later in your driving career

Did you know that on average, we outlive our safe driving career by 7-10 years? That’s a pretty amazing statistic!  Like preparing financially for the day you retire, it is never too early to start preparing for the day you finally achieve the esteemed title of “older” driver.

Experts report that many of us spend more time planning our next vacation than we do planning for our retirement.  And unfortunately, most of us will do almost no advance planning on ways we can extend our safe driving years.

apple_bite

Just as there are steps we can begin taking today to plan for retirement (the earlier the better), there are steps we can begin taking today (the earlier the better), that may someday help to extend our safe driving career.

Taking these three vitamins (the below tips) now can help avoid the necessity of taking pain killers later in life if you ever find yourself forced to give up your keys.

Remember…a pound of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Tip #1:  Exercise Regularly 

We all know that physical exercise is good for us, regardless of our age.  But did you know that for older adults a very strong correlation exits between physical exercise and safe driving?

For years, studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve brain functions (particularly memory) and can even increase brain volume in older adults.  The effects of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and a host of other conditions can certainly be mitigated by regular physical activity.

Sometimes though we tend to overlook the positive role exercise plays in helping to keep us safe behind the wheel as we progress through the natural aging process. Exercise can help improve an older driver’s flexibility, coordination, strength, balance and range of motion.  Simple stretching exercises can help an older driver look left or right more easily to check their blind spots, or to help ensure a safe lane change.

Exercise can also help an older driver turn their neck and body to look behind them before backing. How many tragedies have we read about where an older driver backed over a pedestrian in a parking lot or in some cases, a family member in their own driveway?

jogging (2)

In recent years, a tremendous amount of research has been conducted highlighting the important role physical exercise plays in helping our aging population remain safe drivers.

A 2014 study by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the M.I.T. Age Lab looked at drivers who exercised for 15-20 minutes daily.  The study participants reported greater ease in turning their heads to look in blind spots when changing lanes or backing up, compared with a similar group that did not exercise.  The exercise group could also rotate their bodies easily to scan the road when making right hand turns compared with non-exercisers.

In a study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity (2011), researchers in Portugal found that significant positive effects in driving were observed in participants of an exercise program.  In this particular study, improvements were found in all driving tasks, but particularly in driver reaction time.

The Bottom Line…one of the most effective ways to extend your safe driving career is through an exercise program. Contact your community’s YMCA or senior center to see what classes and programs may be available in your area. Consider enrolling in a Tai chi class or a local wellness program. Whatever you chose to do, start today! It was General George S. Patton who said “A good plan implemented today is better than an excellent plan implemented tomorrow”.

Click here to read more about the important role exercise plays in older driver safety.

Tip #2: Keep Your Mind Sharp

In its simplest terms, driving requires the involvement of two disciplines:

  • our physical abilities (sight, flexibility, reaction time, etc.), and
  • our cognitive abilities (memory and executive functioning)

As important as it is to keep our body tuned up (see Tip #1), it is equally important that we keep our minds active and sharp.

Staying socially engaged with others; trying new activities and challenging ourselves, reading, and eating healthy are all great ways to help keep our minds active. Keeping friends and loved one’s close helps to ward off depression, which can obviously have an adverse impact on your cognitive health. These are important habits to develop now to help slow the aging process while simultaneously lengthening your safe driving career, even decades from now.

In the family setting, the issue surrounding the important role memory plays in older driver safety is often understated or even overlooked all together.  For obvious reasons, when we discuss age related diminished driving skills in older adults, we tend to focus on the physical attributes of safe driving (vision, reflexes, strength, flexibility, hearing, etc.), and may overlook the crucial role memory plays in older driver safety.

memory321

Scientists are starting to think that regular aerobic exercise may be the single most important thing you can do for the long-term health of your brain. While the heart and lungs respond loudly to a sprint on the treadmill, the brain is quietly getting fitter with each step, too.

System-wide health concerns have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and memory impairments. Keeping your circulatory system in working order today, by avoiding cigarettes and saturated fat, lessens the onslaught of age-related damage to the brain.

Click here to read more about the vital role memory plays in older driver safety.

As we prepare to enter the “older” driver era, it becomes even more important to stay up to date with vehicle safety technologies.  Purchase a new vehicle today and it will likely be equipped with such advances as intelligent brake lights (brake lights that communicate with other vehicles), smart windshields (augmented reality), night vision enhancement, automated parking systems, lane departure warning systems, crash notification and avoidance technologies, electronic blind-spot detection, back-over prevention systems, fatigue warning systems, and forward collision warning with auto brake.

However, all of this new technology is of no value to us if we have not kept our minds sharp. There is much debate among automobile design engineers, psychologists, industry safety researchers, geriatricians and neurologists, etc., on how well the processing abilities of older drivers is going to be able to keep up with the cognitive workload being required by these new technologies.

For example, most crash avoidance technologies rely on drivers to take immediate action.  The effectiveness of these systems depends on whether drivers accept the technologies, understand the information from the reporting systems, and respond appropriately.  Often times, in order to be effective and safe, the processing of these new sensory inputs will need to occur in well under a slit-second of time, and that’s quick.

For decades, the military has been conducting research on the phenomenon known as ‘fighter pilot information overload’.  This occurs when the pilot becomes so inundated with information produced by intelligence gathering technologies within the cockpit that his or her mind loses its ability to properly analyze the incoming data.  Worse still, sometimes that overload of information can become so intense and overwhelming, and in such a short period of time, that the results can almost immediately turn disastrous.

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As drivers, are we going to find themselves overwhelmed by the bombardment of new technology commands such as audio warnings, alerts, tones, and visual cues, etc. Unless we take steps now to keep our minds sharp, we may find ourselves experiencing our own sort of ‘older driver information overload’ in the future.

Click here to read an article titled “Older Drivers and Emerging Vehicle Safety Technologies”

Tip #3:  Control (or prevent!) Diabetes 

The CDC estimates that 29 million people in the United States (9.3 percent of our population) have diabetes.  Symptoms or complications of diabetes might make it difficult to drive safely. Depending on your diagnosis, licensing might require medical evaluations from a doctor, either before receiving your license or after.  Diabetes can cause hypoglycemia, neuropathy in your hands or feet, all sorts of vision problems and in some cases, seizures or even a complete loss of consciousness.

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Dr. Paul M. Rosman, DO,  Board Certified Endocrinologist and personal contributor to Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families explains “Some people will continue to drive a vehicle even with recognizing that sugar levels are “a little low”.  Medical research documents decreases in reaction time, motor responsiveness, and decision-making that occurs with lowered sugar levels.

Getting your diabetes under control and keeping it under control now will serve you very well as you attempt to extend your safe driving career years from now.

And one last thing to keep in mind…

Buy Your Next Home Based (in-part) on Local Transportation Options!

We are all familiar with the natural process of downsizing.  Whether you’re staying in your home or downsizing to a smaller residence (locally or across the country), knowing your transportation options in advance is becoming more and more critical.

Leann Moore, owner of A Stress-Less Transition, LLC., serving the greater Tampa Bay area, is an expert on helping older adults downsize for their Golden Years.  She reminds us that “As we prepare to downsize and relocate, it is important to consider your transportation options.  Take the time to learn what options are available in the neighborhood you are considering.

Public transportation, door-to-door transportation services, private transportation companies (taxi, Uber and Lyft, etc.), and faith based transportation ministries may play an important role in helping you maintain your independence and quality of life. If you are considering moving into a retirement community, find out ahead of time if they offer transportation services as one of their amenities”.

Leann reminds us that “Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!”.

About the author:  Matt Gurwell is founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC,  a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families.  Please visit their website at http://www.keepingussafe.org/ or 877-907-8841 for additional information on their programming. 

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The Workbook for Older Drivers & Their Families

Do you wonder if the older driver in your family may be experiencing diminishing drivingKeeping us Safe Beyond Driving with Dignityskills as a result of the natural aging process?

Has your parent become lost recently while driving on an otherwise familiar route?  Have you noticed mom bumping into curbs, mailboxes, or scraping the side of the garage when she backs out?  Are there unexplained scuff marks on the corners of dad’s bumpers?  Has dad been involved in a minor parking lot fender-bender recently, or does he complain about being honked at all the time?  Do either of them seem easily confused or more forgetful when you talk with them on the telephone?

If so, don’t panic; you are certainly not alone.  The most important thing to remember is that the time to start addressing your concerns over driving is now, before “concerns” turn into “tragedies”.

Facts:  According to AARP, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day for the next 18 years!  Tragically, an average of 15 people ages 65+ die in car accidents every day in the United States

The issue of taking the keys away from a parent can be extremely sensitive and emotional.  Having this discussion has been likened to trying to throw a diplomatic hand grenade at your parents and the “talk” has been known to divide entire families.  Adult siblings, otherwise close to each other their entire lives, can end up at war with each other (and/or with their parents) on how best to address the driving issue.

There is a solution; Keeping Us Safe has developed a workbook titled “Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families”.

The workbook employs a very user-friendly, uncomplicated method and is designed to be used in the comfort and confidence of the family’s home.  It has been designed to remove the family’s emotion, opinion and speculation from the decision making process, and reduces everything to simple fact so that appropriate decisions can follow.

More specifically, the workbook helps the family and the older driver better recognize any deficiencies in the following dimensions:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Memory
  • Reflex and reaction time
  • Strength and flexibility
  • Medications, and
  • Overall health concerns

“The workbook was written to help families (or professionals working with families) by providing them with a ‘roadmap to success’ in their quest to overcome the challenges of an older driver’s safety” explains Matt Gurwell, founder and CEO of Keeping Us Safe.

Gurwell adds “If driving restrictions or even a complete retirement from driving are deemed appropriate, the ‘Limit Driving, Not Living’ chapter of the workbook helps the family identify and implement alternative means of transportation for the retiring driver.”

Working through this instrument will help concerned families make appropriate driving-related decisions that are not only in the best interest of the older driver, but simultaneously find themselves in the best interest of highway safety in general. This workbook was designed to be used by the family in the confidence and comfort of their own home, most likely seated right at the family’s kitchen table.

To purchase a workbook or to learn more about how the workbook can help your family or client, visit the Keeping Us Safe website at www.keepingussafe.org.

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Ohio State Highway Patrol partners with Keeping Us Safe to prevent older driver tragedies

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The Ohio State Highway Patrol is pleased to announce a new partnership with two organizations dedicated to keeping older drivers safe on the roads of the Mahoning Valley: SCOPE of Trumbull County (Senior Citizen’s Opportunity for Personal Endeavor) and Keeping Us Safe.

In conjunction with the Warren Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, SCOPE will sponsor Keeping Us Safe’s “A Safe Drive Through the Aging Process” presentation throughout March and April.

Keeping Us Safe is a national organization that works with older drivers and their families with the issue of age-related diminishing driving skills. The one-hour long presentation, free to the public, will offer suggestions on how an older driver can extend his or her safe driving career.

The program stresses the importance of staying aware of diminishing physical and cognitive skills as we age, as well as making appropriate adjustments in driving behavior to compensate for a decline in those skills.  Read more at Media Release-OSP Warren Partnership.

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A Completely Solvable Problem!

Car Accident-Keepig Us Safe

 

According to the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), olderadults account for 10 percent of all people injured in traffic crashes annually and 17 percent of annual traffic fatalities.  Keeping Us Safe’s Enhanced Self-Assessment Program (ESAP) for older drivers can help drive this statistic down!  Beyond Driving with Dignity

 

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Continuing Education Programs to Help Older Drivers and Their Families Now Available to Nurses in Wyoming

 

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Keeping Us Safe is pleased to announce that their nationally-recognized presentations for nurses has been accepted for Continuing Education (CEU) credits in the state of Wyoming.   Following are brief descriptions of each presentation:

Bringing a Peaceful Resolve to Complex & Sensitive Senior Driving Issues

This 1-hour educational presentation is designed to provide Wyoming’s nurses with the skills and competencies necessary to help an individual (and their concerned family members) suffering from age-related diminished driving skills with the ability to make a smooth transition into a driving retirement, with minimal deterioration to the individual’s dignity or independence.

Driving Under the Influence of Dementia

This presentation, also 1-hour in length, is designed to provide nurses in Wyoming with the skills and competencies necessary to address the issue of dementia-related cognitive decline as it relates to older drivers.  Attendees will gain a further understanding of the role memory and executive functioning play in safe driving, and how dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can have an adverse effect on those critical brain functions and thus on driving abilities.

The presentation includes discussion on recent research projects related to the issue of driving with dementia and will offer potential solutions for the family and for the driver with dementia in their quest to maintain their independence and a healthy lifestyle even after driving cessation.

Pursuant to the rules established by the Wyoming State Board of Nursing, nurses licensed in the state of Wyoming are now eligible to earn Continuing Education credits (CEU’s) for attending and participating in either course.

Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe, explains that “A fundamental component of our mission is to provide educational support for members of the professional community that may find themselves in the difficult position of helping families deal with this very sensitive and emotional issue.  We are delighted that the State of Wyoming has recognized the need for such programs and we are honored that they have entrusted us to deliver this information to Wyoming’s nursing community.

Founded in 2008, Keeping Us Safe is an organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families. Their programs are designed to save lives while simultaneously helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with this very challenging issue. Their services are available throughout the United States and Canada.  To learn more about their programming or to schedule a continuing education presentation please visit the Keeping Us Safe website at http://www.keepingussafe.org or call toll-free 877-907-8841.

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