Keeping Us Safe Founder to Speak at ‘Michigan Traffic Safety Summit’

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Keeping Us Safe is excited to announce that Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC., has been invited to speak at the 23rd Annual Michigan Traffic Safety Summit, scheduled for March 21-23, 2017, in East Lansing, Michigan.    

Keeping Us Safe is a national organization headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, that provides services to the families of older drivers as they become concerned about an aging parent’s safe driving abilities. 

The goal of this three-day summit is to gather traffic safety professionals and national experts to develop initiatives that will save lives and reduce injuries on Michigan’s roadways.  The results of the summit will also help impact the strategic direction of traffic safety planning in Michigan.  The conference is sponsored by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning in conjunction with the Michigan State Police.   

A recognized thought leader in the complex and sensitive world of older driver safety, Gurwell will be presenting Keeping Us Safe’s nationally recognized ‘Driving Under the Influence of Dementia’ education program.  “It is a true honor to have been selected to participate in this conference.  Our programs are designed to reduce the incidence of older driver tragedies on America’s roadways.  Having the opportunity to present at this summit falls in perfect alignment with the mission of Keeping Us Safe.”  

Gurwell adds that “The state of Michigan has historically taken a proactive and aggressive stance in developing and implementing effective traffic safety programs.  Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning is motivated to save lives and reduce injuries for individuals, families, and entire communities.  As such, it is an honor to be able to participate in this summit.”

The summit will take place on March 21-23, 2017 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing.  More information on the conference is available at:

http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-72297_64773_8271—,00.html

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

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Keeping Us Safe founder to speak at National Caregiving Conference

Keeping Us Safe is excited to announce that Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC., has been invited to speak at this year’s National Caregiving Conference in Chicago, Illinois on December 3, 2016. 

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The goal of the conference is to connect professional and family caregivers with support and solutions, to empower them with insights and information and to entertain the attendees with engaging and enlightening presentations.  The conference is also meant to spark important conversations about what supports caregivers need in our communities, workplaces and in our health care system.

Keeping Us Safe is a national organization headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, that provides services to the families of older drivers as they become concerned about an aging parent’s safe driving abilities. 

A recognized thought leader in the emotional world of older driver safety, Gurwell says “It is a true honor to have been selected to participate in this conference.  Caregivers, so often unknown and unnoticed, have long been the very fabric that holds our families together during some of our most difficult times.  The care, support and love caregivers render to those in need is a gift that many of us simply do not possess.” 

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The foundation of Keeping Us Safe’s “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program is the Enhanced Self-Assessment Program for older drivers, which is a 3-hour individualized program that empowers older drivers with diminished driving skills to make the right decision to retire from driving. 

Gurwell, a retired Ohio State Trooper, explains that “The ‘Beyond Driving with Dignity’ program provides peace of mind to families and caregivers who are concerned about a loved one’s driving, bringing calm to what can be a very sensitive, emotional and sometimes divisive family issue.”    

Gurwell adds “Caregivers are the silent heroes amongst us, always willing to provide a guiding hand or a listening ear to those in need.  There is no doubt that a special place in Heaven is being held for family caregivers.”

The conference will take place on Saturday, December 3, 2016, at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare.  More information on the conference is available at:

http://www.caregiving.com/national-caregiving-conference-hub/.

To learn more about Keeping Us Safe’s programs, please visit our website at www.keepingussafe.org.

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During Your Trip Home for the Holidays; Find Out if Mom is Still a Safe Driver!

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Many of us will be driving home this Thanksgiving to share a bountiful meal with family and friends.  During this annual tradition, families travel from far and near to get together to enjoy turkey, pumpkin pie, parades and professional football.  It has long been a time to give thanks for all that we have in our lives.  

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 thankfulness, but it’s also an opportunity to observe your aging family members 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 on your next trip home:

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?

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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.

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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 this holiday season as a time to enjoy family and to give thanks for all that we have and have had.  Use it to re-unite with family and friends and to kick-off the holiday season, 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. 

For further information, contact Keeping Us Safe at 877-907-8841 or by email at info@keepingussafe.org or visit our website at www.keepingussafe.org.  

 

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Glaucoma and Older Driver Safety

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Introduction

Did you know that glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States?  In its simplest terms, glaucoma is a disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve.  Glaucoma is the source of several different vision problems, including (but not limited to) the loss of contrast sensitivity, problems with glare, and blurred vision.    

The purpose of this article is to provide a very cursory understanding of how glaucoma can have an adverse effect on one’s safe driving abilities.    

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is caused by the build-up of extra fluid pressure in your eyes.  This causes damage to the optic nerve that can lead to gradual visual declines, up to a complete loss of sight.  Often, your peripheral (or side) vision is affected first.  Eventually, your central (or direct) vision will also begin to diminish.  It is estimated that over 3 million Americans are living with glaucoma.

Deborah Kogler, president of the nationally recognized Magnifiers & More, explains that “Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral vision. The peripheral vision loss can cause a person to miss objects, cars, and people to the sides and out of the corner of their eyes.  The individual may complain feeling as if they are looking through a tunnel.”

How does glaucoma affect safe driving?

According to a 2015 study by the University of Alabama’s Department of Ophthalmology, (Birmingham), drivers over the age of 70 with glaucoma had a 1.65 times higher accident rate than those without glaucoma.  That’s pretty significant!  Glaucoma can affect your safe driving abilities in many ways, two critical areas are by constricting your peripheral vision and by limiting your ability to quickly adjust to the glare from any number of light sources. 

Peripheral (or side) vision is necessary to detect information from the sides that is critical for safe driving. Your peripheral vision is needed to see road signs, hazards, and changes in the flow of traffic.   

An impaired ability to recover from glare can result in the driver being blinded by a glare source and consequently missing curves or jogs in the road, striking pedestrians or objects in the roadway, and/or crashing into the back of slow-moving, disabled or stopped vehicles.  This glare most often originates from the headlights of oncoming vehicles or even from the sun. 

What can I do?

The National Eye Institute reports that there is no cure for glaucoma, and vision lost from the disease cannot be restored.  Early detection and immediate treatment can delay progression of the disease.  Although nerve damage and visual loss from glaucoma cannot be corrected, the good news is that progression of the disease can oftentimes be controlled.

The loss of vision from glaucoma can prevent a driver from seeing other vehicles or hazards on the road and will limit their ability to drive safely.  The good news is that just because you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma does not mean that you have to retire from driving; your risk for being involved in a future traffic accident depends largely on the extent the disease has affected
your vision. 

Diagnosis and early detection are the first steps in preserving your vision.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults age 65 and older have a complete eye exam (including tests for glaucoma!) at least every twelve months.  Doing so will help keep your eyes healthy, will help in the early detection of vision disorders and by association, will help extend your safe driving career.

So please…get your next eye examination scheduled today!

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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.   Click here to sign up for Keeping Us Safe’s newsletter.

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Two Primary Components of Safe Driving for Older Drivers

 

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Introduction

In America, driving an automobile is a symbol of freedom and independence.  Research has shown that, if not handled properly, a loss of driving can lead to isolation and depression.  It is important to remember that driving is a very complex task.  As we continue our journey through the natural aging process, it becomes even more important that we remain cognizant of the fact that some of the skills required for safe driving may begin to diminish.

More specifically, we are talking about our cognitive processing and our physical abilities.  In its simplest form, these are the two primary components required for safe driving.  Did you know that the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that we are outliving our ability to drive safely by an average of 7-10 years?  The purpose of this article is to provide a cursory review of each of these two fundamental components.

Cognitive Abilities

The complexity of driving an automobile cannot be understated.  Cognitive or executive functioning can best be described as the brain’s ability to manage activities.  Those activities include such things as:

  • planning
  • problem solving
  • organizing and directing the body to carry out activities
  • making appropriate decisions
  • considering consequences
  • working memory
  • prioritizing details and tasks
  • staying focused

Obviously, any and all of these cognitive abilities are critical to driving safety.  As your executive functioning skills begin to diminish, your likelihood of being involved in a car crash is sure to increase accordingly. 

Physical Abilities

No less or no more important to maintaining your cognitive functions is the importance of maintaining your physical abilities.  Are you getting your annual vision exams as recommended?  If your audiologist has prescribed hearing aids, are you wearing them or do you keep them on the nightstand?  Are you taking your medications exactly as directed?  Are you adhering to the warnings on the medication labels?  Have you educated yourself on which of your medications may have an adverse effect on your ability to drive safely?   

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Do you exercise?  Exercise can help improve an older driver’s overall coordination, strength, flexibility, balance and range of motion.  Exercise can also help an older driver turn their neck and body to look beside them before changing lanes, or behind them before backing.    

Conclusion

Safe driving, regardless of age, requires a keen mind and sharp motor skills.  With the diminishment of cognitive and/or physical abilities related to the natural aging process, we may unknowingly begin to minimize the complexity of driving and simultaneously overestimate our abilities. 

Just as there are infinite number of ways to keep yourself in good physical shape, there are just as many unique (and free!) techniques available to help you exercise your mind.  Keeping both your mind and your body active as you age is sure to play a vital role in extending your safe driving years.       

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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.   

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Prescription Cocktails and the Older Driver

Memorial for 14-year-old

DENVER, CO – JULY 19: Ranee Woof visits a memorial for 14-year-old Cole Sukle, a Denver boy who was killed by an 81-year-old driver in a car accident in southeast Denver, July 19, 2016. Woof son know Cole from science club. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Tragedy in Denver

On July, 13, 2016, on a city street in southeast Denver, 81-year-old Patricia Livingston drove her Audi A4 into two boys out for an afternoon ride on their bicycles, killing 14-year-old Cole Sukle and severely injuring his 13-year-old friend, Jack Mahoney.  Cole and Jack (and a third cyclist that was not struck) were standing in the bike lane/sidewalk when they were hit.

After striking the boys, Ms. Livingston continued driving for several blocks, reportedly weaving in and out of the oncoming lane, before crashing in a nearby park.  Ms. Livingston’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was found to be .135%, well above Colorado’s legal limit of .08%.  Livingston, a 32-year trustee at the University of Denver, suffered injuries in the second crash and died ten days later.

One dead 14-year-old boy, one injured 13-year-old boy, and one deceased elderly driver.  Sadly, these types of tragedies involving older (and younger!) drivers occur every day across America.

The Purpose of This Article

The purpose of this article is to discuss the role alcohol, prescription medications, the prescribing cascade and polypharmacy play in older driver safety.  Our hopes are that by bringing additional awareness to these particular issues, at least one tragedy can be avoided somewhere down the road.

Not included in this article are insights on the role mental health issues, cognitive decline, medical conditions, alcoholism, sleep disorders or the use of illicit drugs play in older driver safety.  Although obviously relevant and important in any highway safety discussion, these latter topics might serve us better by being addressed in a future article.  It should also be noted that in no way is this article meant to be an indictment against the late Ms. Livingston.

Alcohol and the Older Driver

drinkingAs we all know, alcohol is a depressant that slows down the functions of the central nervous system. This means that normal brain function is delayed, and a person is unable to perform as one would expect.

As we age, our ability to efficiently break down alcohol decreases, causing alcohol to stay in our bodies longer.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) confirms that aging can lower the body’s tolerance for alcohol; this results in higher blood alcohol levels per drink and swifter, longer-lasting intoxication.  Even if the individual has been a long time drinker, older adults generally experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger, placing them at higher risks for falls, car crashes, and other unintentional injuries.

The natural aging process tends to slow our reaction time and our ability to judge distances and speeds.  Combine this natural slowing process with the depressant effects of alcohol, and we have created a volatile recipe for disaster.

Prescription Medications and the Older Driver

When we hear “DUI” or driving under the influence, the first thing that often comes to mind is drinking and driving.  What some readers may not realize is the fact that DUI/OVI laws not only refer to alcohol impairment, but also impairment caused by prescription medications and drugs of abuse.

In today’s society, the association between medication use and the risk of motor vehicle collisions is particularly important considering that drivers are living longer and maintaining their mobility later in life, often times despite any medical conditions.

It is well-established that medication usage increases with age. In the United States, adults over 65 years of age consume more than 30% of all annual written prescriptions.  The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that a whopping 95% of seniors use medications that might impair their driving.  To make that worse, a University of Alabama-Birmingham study of 630 older adults (M=70.4), revealed that only 28% of seniors acknowledged even some awareness of the potential impact their medications had on their driving performance.

Prescriptions and even some over-the-counter medications come with warnings about possible side-effects, such as drowsiness or other risks related to driving, yet many people ignore them or simply do not understand them.

Polypharmacy, Prescribing Cascade and the Older Driver

In its simplest terms, polypharmacy can be described as the use of four or more medications by one individual.  Polypharmacy is most common in the elderly, affecting about 40% of older adults living in their own homes.  A recent article in American Nurse Today reports that 44% of men and 57% of women older than age 65 take five or more medications per week, and about 12% of both men and women take 10 or more medications per week.

As we know, side effects for an individual drug can change when combined with other medications, especially new prescriptions.

A 2014 study conducted by the Oregon State University found that three out of four older Americans have multiple chronic health conditions, and more than 20 percent of them are being treated with drugs that work at odds with each other.  In other words, the medication being used to treat one condition can actually make the other condition worse.

Prescribing cascade refers to the process whereby the side effects of medications are misdiagnosed as symptoms of another problem resulting in further prescriptions and further side effects and unanticipated drug interactions. This may lead to further misdiagnoses and further symptoms.

The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists offers a solution to the prescribing cascade, suggesting that any new symptom in an older adult be considered a drug side effect until proven otherwise.  That may be good advice for all of us to remember the next time we go to the doctor to report a new issue.

The Synergistic effect of combining alcohol and medications

Pills and alcohol, studio shot

Mixing alcohol and medications may have unexpected effects on your driving.  Many prescription medications and over-the-counter medications can become very dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol.

When alcohol is consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires, like judgment, concentration, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time become impaired.  And guess what; when prescription medications are consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires, like judgment, concentration, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time also become impaired.  It’s pretty much a safe bet that when prescription medications are mixed with alcohol and driving, a catastrophic highway event is imminent.

Toward Safer Travels

So what can you do to reduce the likelihood of becoming involved in an alcohol and/or prescription-related traffic crash?  Here are a few suggestions:

Communicating with your doctor and/or pharmacist is the key! 

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that despite high prescription and over-the-counter medication use, almost half of senior drivers using medications have never talked with their health care providers about how the medications might adversely affect their safe driving abilities.

When your doctor prescribes a new drug, discuss all prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, vitamins, botanicals, minerals and herbals you take, as well as the foods you eat.  Remember to ask about the possible side effects and if this new medication will work safely with your other medications (including non-prescription medicines).  Ask your doctor “What is the most important thing I should know about this new medication?”.

Read and follow the instructions and warnings printed on the medication label

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According to Consumer Reports, instructions on the bottle’s label may not seem to be hard to follow, but more than 500,000 Americans misinterpret them every year.  It is very important to read, understand and follow the instructions on both the container’s warning label and the package insert!  The package insert provides the most up-to-date information on your medication and is usually in a very easy-to-read format.

Take full advantage of the “Roadwise Rx” program

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has developed a nifty tool titled Roadwise Rx.  This is a confidential tool that helps you explore how your medications may affect your safe driving abilities.

Roadwise Rx (www.roadwiserx.com) provides you with a way to record all of your medications in one central location but more importantly, it also provides customized feedback on how your prescription and over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements and foods (as well as their interactions with each other), can affect safe driving.  Although never meant to be used in lieu of recommendations from your doctor or pharmacists, it is a great way to gain additional information on the possible interactions of medications you are taking.  Try it today, it’s free!

Conclusion

As respecters of life, each of us has both a legal duty and a personal duty to never allow ourselves to operate a motor vehicle in a state that has rendered us impaired, and there can be no exceptions to this rule.  We cannot simply “chance it”, hoping that nothing bad will happen as a result of our poor decision to drive impaired.  If we adhere to this rule, thousands of highway tragedies could be averted every year in America.

As E. C. McKenzie once explained, “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities”.

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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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Drowsiness & the Older Driver

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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.   

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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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