Driving a car can sometimes be difficult for older people. Here are some safety tips for older drivers, from taking charge of your own safety to planning and updating your skills.
Driver safety is not limited to understanding road signs and the rules of the road. As you age, you’ll likely notice physical changes that can make certain actions more difficult, like turning your head to spot oncoming traffic or braking safely. Here are seven tips for older drivers.
Staying physically active improves your strength and flexibility. Physical activity can improve driver safety by making it easier for them to turn the steering wheel, look over their shoulder, and make other movements while driving and parking.
Look for ways to include physical activity in your daily routine. Walking is a great choice for many people. Stretching and strength exercises are also helpful for older drivers.
Certain senses, such as hearing and sight, tend to decline with age. Hearing impairment can be a concern for older drivers by limiting the ability to hear an approaching vehicle or emergency vehicle. Common age-related vision problems, such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, can also make it difficult to see clearly or drive at night.
Discuss with your doctor how often you need eye and hearing exams. Even if you think your hearing and vision are fine, stick to the test schedule recommended by your doctor. Problems can be easier to fix if caught early, and specialists can recommend timely adjustments to reduce your risk of an accident.
Take any chronic illness seriously, especially ones that could impact driver safety, such as diabetes or seizures. Follow your doctor’s instructions to manage your condition and to stay safe behind the wheel.
It is equally important to know your medications. Many medications, including painkillers, sleeping pills, antihistamines, and muscle relaxants, can affect driver safety, even when you’re feeling well. Read the labels of your medications so you know what to expect from each one.
Do not drive if you have taken medication that causes drowsiness or dizziness.
Consider your physical limitations and make the necessary adjustments. For example, if your hands hurt when holding the steering wheel, use a steering wheel cover that makes gripping and turning the steering wheel more comfortable. Assistive devices can help you drive.
You can also adjust your vehicle or choose another one to better suit your needs. For example, vehicles with larger, easier-to-read gauges on the dashboard are often more suitable for older drivers.
Also, some newer models have safety features that can help you avoid collisions, change lanes safely, manage your blind spot, and more.
You can improve driver safety by driving during the day, in good weather, on quiet roads and in familiar places. If visibility is poor, consider delaying your trip or using public transport.
Beyond road conditions, make sure you’re in optimal condition to drive. Do not drive if you are tired or angry.
Never drive after drinking alcohol or using other mind-altering substances.
Distracted driving is a common cause of accidents. Take measurements before you go to make sure you are able to concentrate.
When you get into your vehicle, be prepared. Plan your route in advance so you don’t have to read a map or directions while driving. If you are using a GPS device, enter your destination before you start driving.
While driving, don’t do anything that distracts you from concentrating on the road, even eating or tuning the radio.
Make a commitment to never use or even look at your cell phone while driving: don’t talk on the phone, text or post messages of any kind.
For better safety, also avoid any type of phone conversation or sending voice messages while driving, including hands-free and Bluetooth devices.
Consider taking a refresher course for older drivers. Road safety rules have evolved from when you first got your license to now.
If you are confused while driving, worried about your ability to drive safely, or other people have expressed concern, it may be best to stop driving. Consider taking the bus or using a ride-sharing service. Giving up your car keys doesn’t necessarily end your independence. Instead, consider it a way to protect yourself and others on the road.