Recent bouts of freezing rain and freezing drizzle in south western Ontario have led to a large number of falls and accidents resulting in hospitalizations and broken bones. It's not just seniors, but everyone that needs to be careful when out and about in bad weather conditions. If road conditions are dangerous, if possible consider making alternate travel arrangements or postponing your trip until conditions improve.
Here are a couple of tips from the Canada Safety Council to help you drive safely and avoid collisions on snowy or icy roads:
1. Prepare your vehicle for winter driving.
Winter tires are a good option, as they will provide greater traction under snowy or icy conditions.
Keep a snow brush/scraper in your car, along with possible emergency items such as a lightweight shovel, battery jumper cables, and a flashlight.
Make sure that mirrors, all windows, and the top of your vehicle, are free of snow or frost before getting onto the road.
Also pack an emergency survival kit containing water, dry snacks, a blanket etc.
2. Drive carefully
Don’t make any abrupt turns or stops when driving. Doing so will often cause your vehicle to lose control and skid.
Driving too fast is the main cause of winter collisions. Be sure to drive slowly and carefully on snow and ice covered roads.
3. Don’t tailgate.
Tailgating becomes much worse in winter weather. Stopping takes much longer on snowy and icy roads than on dry pavement, so be sure to leave enough room between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
4. Brake before making turns.
Brake slowly to reduce speed before entering turns and intersections. Once you have rounded the corner you can accelerate again.
5. Learn how to control skids.
When skidding, you actually need to go against your natural instincts and turn into the skid and accelerate. Doing so transfers your vehicle’s weight from the front to the rear and often helps vehicles to regain control.
6. Lights On.
Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
Turn on your hazard lights if you are going very slow because of poor visibility.
7. Avoid Cruise Control.
Never use cruise control if conditions are snowy, icy, or wet, because if your car hydroplanes, your car will try to accelerate and you may lose control of your vehicle.
8. Don’t “pump” the brakes.
If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), do not “pump” the brakes. Apply constant pressure and let the system do its work.
9. Be an attentive driver.
Manoeuvres are more difficult to make in the snow. Be sure to anticipate what your next move is going to be to give yourself lots of room for turns and stopping.
Did you know that nearly one in three seniors living in their own home or the home of adult children caregivers suffers from serious falls at least once every year.
It should also be mentioned that nearly half the seniors who suffer from a serious fracture, such as a hip, pelvic or spinal fracture, never completely recover from the injury. Add to that medical complications created through immobility or bed-ridden conditions and almost 25% die within six months to a year following such an injury.
Can such statistics be reduced? Yes, of course! Fall risks to seniors may be alleviated or even prevented. Here are some things you can do to diminish the risk of falling:
1. Making sure they get enough activity and exercise. Sedentary elders fall more often than those who stay as fit and as physically active as possible.
2. Ensure a safer living space by:
- installing support bars in the washroom
- decluttering the living space (have minimal furniture, decorative items, plants etc.)
- securing rugs to the floor, or better, getting rid of rugs. Most falls are caused by tripping over rugs
- securing cords and wires away from high traffic areas
3. Also be aware that medications and medical conditions may alter vision acuity, depth perception, or may cause dizziness and confusion. Speak to the doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of the medication he or she is on
Do whatever you can to reduce the risk of elderly falls in your home. Taking simple measures provides effective fall prevention in most scenarios. A few dollars spent now may potentially save thousands and serious injury down the line.
Share your fall prevention tips by posting a comment below.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.