The Vital Role Memory Plays in Older Driver Safety

The Vital Role Memory Plays in Older Driver Safety

We’ve all done it; gotten ourselves lost while traveling to an unfamiliar area or even losing our car in a crowded parking lot. Some of us (myself included) have even gotten lost while using a GPS. One has to wonder, how is that even possible? But for older drivers who find themselves getting lost in otherwise familiar areas, this memory decline can be a very significant warning sign that danger may lay ahead.

In the family setting, the issue surrounding the important role memory plays in older driver safety is often understated or even overlooked altogether. 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.). We may overlook the crucial role memory plays in keeping older drivers safe.

Older drivers (and sometimes their family members) have asked, “As long as I’m still a good driver, so what if I get lost? At most, it might create an inconvenience, but it certainly doesn’t create a safety hazard.” Unfortunately, this philosophy can sometimes be the furthest thing from the truth. The purpose of this blog is to highlight the important role memory plays in safe driving.

Memory is part of the larger brain function known as executive functioning. Executive functioning has been referred to as the brain’s CEO. Its primary duty is to oversee such cognitive abilities as planning, concentrating and not becoming distracted, multi-tasking, estimating time, problem-solving, making appropriate decisions, prioritizing information, and of course, memory.

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 our driving behavior and habits. Continuing to operate a vehicle while ignoring noticeable memory decline can lead to tragedy, either through a car accident or by unknowingly becoming a candidate for a victim of crime.

Working memory is an important driving quality that enables a mature driver to perform such functions as following driving directions, rules and regulations, making good decisions while behind the wheel, and of course, not getting lost. Memory is critically important to an older driver’s safety. Suppose you have an aging loved one getting lost driving to otherwise familiar locations. In that case, it may be time to consider the individual’s ability to remain safe as a driver. Senior Care Authority’s exclusive “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program is a valuable resource in helping determine if someone you know is at an elevated risk to be in a vehicle accident (www.beyonddrivingwithdignity.com).

By David Stamberg of Senior Care Authority

2 Comments

  • Paul Onish

    January 6, 2022 at 9:27 am

    Thank you for the information. I have a senior who could use that advice and I hope others will consider it.

  • Andrea Maria Harrison

    January 6, 2022 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Paul. Feel free to share the information.