December 1st to 7th is National Safe Driving week according to the Canada Safety Council. Driving while fatigued is comparable to driving drunk, only there is not the same social stigma attached. Like alcohol, fatigue affects our ability to drive by slowing reaction time, decreasing awareness and impairing judgment.
According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, fatigue is a factor in up to 21 per cent of motor vehicle collisions, resulting in about 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries every year. At 21 per cent, fatigue would rank as the third highest measurable cause of collisions behind alcohol impairment and speed-aggressive driving.
According to the Canada Safety Council, the main factors in collisions involving older drivers are slow response, not seeing a sign, car, or pedestrian, and interaction with other drivers. Medications can make a driver more susceptible to any of these factors – and Canadians over age 65 take an average of nine medications daily, including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal blends.
Medication can have a positive or negative effect on driving ability. An older driver with untreated depression is at high risk due to decreased concentration and slower decision-making. However, treatment may also carry a risk – 10 milligrams of Valium® (an anti-anxiety medication) can produce more driving impairment than a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10; the Criminal Code limit in Canada is 0.08. Physicians prescribe benzodiazepines, to combat anxiety and insomnia among seniors. They can have side effects such as drowsiness, impaired motor function and confusion.
Drugs that slow you down also reduce your ability to make decisions and process information rapidly. Seniors taking painkillers that contain codeine or propoxyphene may experience sedation and mild impairment. Even over-the-counter drugs can reduce driving ability. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness and poor concentration. Tranquilizers or cold remedies, such as cold tablets, cough syrup, and sleeping pills, can reduce driving ability. Most seniors do not discuss their over-the-counter drugs with their doctor even though they should.
Learn to recognize the signs of fatigue and perhaps your medication:
• Difficulty focusing on the road
• Wandering thoughts – loss of concentration
• Heavy head or eyelids and frequently blinking or yawning
• Missing exit signs, traffic lights or stop signs
• Drifting lanes, tailgating other cars or driving on the rumble bumps on the side of the road
If you ever find these signals plaguing you, please get off the road and protect yourself and those around you.
It is that time of year again … gift wrapping season. You can bring your gifts to our Gift Wrap booth at the Quinte Mall and take a relaxing coffee break while the volunteers wrap and decorate your gifts in exchange for a nominal donation. This year the booth is located beside the model train display in front of Sport Chek. All proceeds from this seasonal service help subsidize the cost of services provided to seniors in your community.
When caring for a loved one, there can be many challenges, and we can feel alone and overwhelmed. On Thursday, December 7 at 2:30 pm, the Belleville Public Library will be hosting a workshop with Elder Abuse Ontario that will walk you through those challenges and share resources that are available for caregivers and families of seniors. This free workshop requires no registration. 3rd floor meeting room. For more information call 613-968-6731 x 2037.