Consumer Reports: Safer senior driving

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Even as they start experiencing signs of aging, many older drivers are reluctant to hang up their keys. (WLS)

They've been behind the wheel for decades, but even as they start experiencing signs of aging, many older drivers are reluctant to hang up their keys. Consumer Reports recently looked at programs and strategies that can either help seniors drive safely or recognize when it's time to retire from the road.

Sandra Cunningham is 70 years old and despite having Parkinson's disease, would like to continue driving as long as possible.

She's got a lot of company. Thirty eight million Americans over the age of 65 have a driver's license, including 3.5 million who are older than 85. While you may assume older drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash than their younger counterparts.

"Decades of crash data actually says that isn't the case. The highest rate and the most dangerous drivers to others are actually the youngest drivers," said Consumer Reports' Jennifer Stockburger.

This could be in part because seniors are more likely to obey speed limits and far less likely to text and drive.

Cunningham also worked with a certified driver rehab specialist. These specialists assess older drivers for things like vision, memory, processing speed, and range of motion and help equip them with tips and tools to keep them safe.

"Making sure I can see over the wheel, adjusting my mirrors properly so I can see around me," said Cunningham.

"One of the biggest things is keeping active and walking because the aerobic exercise is a great thing for your body and your mind to keep your responses quick," said Certified Driver Rehab Specialist Lynn Matthes.

The goal - keep seniors behind the wheel as safe and as long as possible because putting the brakes on driving could lead to other problems down the road.

"There's a much higher rate of depression after seniors stop driving. Data has shown that it actually increases the mortality rate, they're much more likely to end up in a nursing home," said Stockburger.

"When you drive at least that gives you some independence and self-worth," said Cunningham.

Consumer Reports has also compiled a list of the best cars for senior drivers. They recommend taking a driver's education course through the AARP or looking for a CarFit event where experts will make sure you are in the right position to see and reach everything in your own vehicle.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumerreports.org

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