Driver, driver behind the wheel, are you safe or do we make a deal?

by Audrey Miller on January 5, 2012

in Articles & Blogs by Audrey, Baby Boomers, Dementia, Elder Care

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Written on January 5, 2012 – 7:27 am | by Audrey Miller, allaboutestates.ca.

I am so glad that another year has passed; considering the alternative….. While there may be moments that we despair I am glad to be on this side of the grass. On this positive note, I wanted to highlight research that is currently being undertaken which should improve all of our lives. At least, it may keep us alive alittle longer. This research relates to assessing a driver’s ability- behind the wheel. CANDRIVE (the Canadian Driving Research Initiative for Vehicular Safety in the Elderly, candrive.ca) is involved in a 5 year study with drivers over the age of 70 who are participating in an annual assessment. Electronic devices have been installed in their cars which chart the time of day and document other information. Similarly, St. Michael’s Hospital is involved in a study which maps brain activity of volunteers who are lying inside a brain scanner which while they are simulating driving using a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals. Understanding reflexes, reaction times, visual and perceptual issues as well as other physical challenges that may or may not be able to be safely accommodated, is key to understanding whether someone is safe behind the wheel. It is never easy to advise that someone is no longer safe to drive and family members often don’t want to engage in this conversation. However, if an unsafe driver is behind the wheel, passengers and pedestrians (as well as other drivers) are at risk. Many times I have heard adult children say (when asked about how they feel regarding their parents who are still driving), “while my dad has dementia and frequently gets lost, as long as he is with my mother, who navigates, they will be fine. WRONG. Once an accident occurs, it is too late. Before that happens, there are a few easy things that can be done. Take a look at their car. Are there dents, bumped fenders, scratches and other regular repairs being done because they didn’t see the post or say that the other driver didn’t signal or drove too closely or stopped too suddenly or crossed the divider? Take a drive with them – were you comfortable? One question that I like to ask is “would you let your children drive with your parent?” Please consider this question, as it may save someone’s life. -Audrey Miller

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