Underlying Medical Conditions That Can Affect Safe Driving
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When most people think about possible medical conditions that can cause problems with driving, vision issues and epilepsy often come to mind. Those are serious issues, of course. Approximately 12 million people in the U.S. over the age of 40 have vision problems, and those issues need to be corrected before driving. Epilepsy should be managed with medication.
But, other underlying medical conditions affect driving and don’t often get as much attention. Unfortunately, they can be just as dangerous. It’s not just your safety you should be thinking about, either, but the wellbeing of other drivers on the road.
Whether you’re a teen learning to drive for the first time, a parent trying to make sure your teenager is safe, or you’re an older individual who is trying to stay safe on the road and determine if you should keep driving, looking at your health is a great place to start.
By recognizing some possible underlying conditions, you can have a better idea of how safe your driving abilities are.
So, what are some of the conditions that could potentially cause problems?
Injuries of any kind can make it difficult to drive. Even if you were injured in the past, you could have delayed symptoms. You might even have injuries from a previous car accident that don’t display themselves immediately. Some of the most common delayed symptoms of injuries include:
- Abdominal injuries
- Back, neck, and shoulder pain
In some cases, these symptoms will subside over time. But, if things are getting worse, seek medical attention.
Lingering injuries from things like sports, other accidents, or any kind of muscular disability could also make it difficult to drive. Don’t take “feeling good” for granted, because it may not last. Getting an official clean bill of health from your doctor is the best thing you can do to make sure you’re okay to drive.
While getting your injuries treated can eventually make it safer for you to be on the road, be aware of the treatment solutions you’re working with. Certain medications for pain or medicinal combinations can make it dangerous to drive. In some states, it’s even illegal to drive while taking certain medications, so make sure you fully understand what you’re taking and the side effects that may come with it.
Mental Health Conditions
It’s easy to think about physical conditions that can affect safe driving. But, mental health conditions can create just as many problems. In some cases, they may be even more dangerous if you haven’t received an official diagnosis or sought out treatment.
Psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, ADD, or bipolar disorder can all make it dangerous to drive. Why?
Studies have shown that mental health conditions may cause drivers to be at a higher risk of getting into a crash. This is mostly because these conditions can impair your overall cognitive function. You might not be able to process things quickly enough as they happen, or your condition might cause you to become distracted.
If you deal with anxiety, you run the risk of having an anxiety or panic attack while driving. That can lead to everything from a racing heart to distracted, worried thoughts. If that happens, you could be putting yourself and everyone else on the road in danger.
If you have an underlying mental health condition, talk to your doctor or therapist about driving and how safe it is. Continue treatment as necessary and consider putting off driving until your mental health is stable and you feel more comfortable behind the wheel. As you start to get a handle on your mental health, take driving slowly by making short trips or driving with someone else in the car that can help you if you start to struggle.
The Effects of Aging
Each state has different driving laws for seniors. In some states, drivers over a certain age need to re-take their driving test to make sure they are still able to be safe on the road. Even if your state doesn’t require you to take a test, it’s a good idea to “check” yourself and your health frequently if you’re over the age of 75.
It’s not uncommon for older individuals to experience more underlying health conditions, including things like:
- High blood pressure
- Macular degeneration
- Bone/muscle loss
- Cognitive impairment
- Memory problems
If you’re dealing with any of those conditions or another ailment that may not make it safe for you to be on the road, it could be time to retire from driving. Instead, take advantage of support services like public transportation or ride-sharing. Even hiring a personal driver is a great option if you have regular errands to run or appointments to attend.
No one is completely immune to underlying medical conditions at any age. Being aware of those conditions and monitoring your health, whether you’re a teen, senior, or somewhere in-between, will keep everyone safer on the road.