Is it time for you to slow down the pace and stop driving?

Let’s face it: Driving to work can be rough. Increased traffic and congestion, long commutes, people talking on hands-free devices, drivers switching lanes trying to pass each other — it can be very overwhelming. It’s especially difficult for people with a newly diagnosed medical condition or the aged. There comes a time when we need to ask ourselves: is it time for me to turn in the keys?

Before making any decision, it is important to honestly evaluate your driving ability. Have your driving skills diminished over time?

Have you been recently diagnosed with a medical condition, such as impaired vision, dementia, seizure disorder, diabetes, sleep disorders, or traumatic brain injury?

Or have you started a new medication that can affect your driving ability? These factors all come into play.

Also, be aware of other warning signs that can be cause for alarm: two or more traffic tickets/violations in two years or less, or two or more collisions with other vehicles or objects (during driving or while parking) in two years or less.

“As we age, our vision, hearing, range of motion and reaction time may decrease making mobility — specifically driving — increasingly difficult,” said Renee Cohen, an occupational therapist at SI University Hospital. This may mean reducing your driving, or seeking alternative methods of transportation: carpooling, mass-transit, taxi, etc. Aging does not mean you don’t have somewhere you need to be.

There are many self-rating materials available — locally or on the Internet — that can provide information in recognizing and correcting potentially dangerous or unsafe situations on the road.

“There are a number of ways that one can improve their driving ability,” said Cohen. “Courses are available online or in the classroom to help aging individuals learn to adjust to slowing reflexes, stay current regarding new driving technology, and provide information on available adaptations for their vehicles.” By using these resources, you may be eligible for discounts from your insurance provider.

If you don’t fit into the above category, there are still some things you can do to protect yourself and others commuting to work. Check the exterior of the car for any potential hazards; check your tire pressure, and look for leaking fluids and broken head lights or turn signals. And while we’re at it, use your turn signals.

One thing we can all agree on: no one looks forward to commuting to work, so let’s make it safe for everyone!