How to Drive Safely as a Senior

August 14th, 2019

It’s no secret that our bodies change as we get older, which can have effects you expect, and some you don’t. Sometimes, changes occur over such a long period of time that you might not notice them at first. For example, you may not notice your leg strength or head and neck flexibility affecting your driving. However, over time these can increase your risk of being in a car accident.

Here are some common developments that can affect seniors as they drive, and how seniors can follow some driver safety tips to stay safe on the road.

Age-Related Health Changes

  • Cognition: If the speed at which people process stimuli and judgment decrease, it can impact driving skills.
  • Vision and/or Hearing Loss: Changes to vision and hearing can cause older drivers to miss other cars on the road and auditory signals such as sirens and honking.
  • Motor Function: Stiff joints and weaker muscles can make it more difficult to operate the brake and gas pedals.
  • Other Medical Conditions: Other medical conditions can also impact how well you are able to drive. If you take medication to manage any conditions, your doctor may recommend you avoid operating heavy machinery.

Though these are things to watch out for, there are steps you can take to keep yourself and other drivers safer on the road.

Stay active.

When you’re active, you’re maintaining your body’s strength and flexibility. You don’t even need to take up strenuous exercises, either—something as simple as walking can be enough. Many older adults also find stretching and light strength exercises to be beneficial.

Keep up with vision and hearing tests.

If your hearing is impaired, you may not hear important signals such as sirens, horns, or bells at railroad crossings. Age-related vision problems like cataracts and glaucoma can also make driving more difficult. Stay on top of any vision or hearing problems by scheduling regular checkups with your doctor. Sometimes it is easier to treat these problems if you catch them early.

Pay attention to your health.

If you have a chronic condition, it’s important to manage it, especially if you plan to keep driving. Things like diabetes, severe arthritis, and seizures can all impact driver safety. It’s important to listen to your doctor. Also make sure you know how any medications you take affect you before you start driving. If your medicine makes you feel dizzy or drowsy, let someone else get you to your destination.

Drive under ideal conditions.

Driving during the daytime, in good weather, and on quiet roads are all factors that can keep you safer on the road. Consider delaying your trip if fog or heavy rain is causing poor visibility. Additionally, don’t drive when you’re tired or upset, or if you have been drinking alcohol, as any of these can impair your ability to drive.

Don’t drive distracted.

With most seniors now owning some type of cell phone, it isn’t just youngsters who are at risk of distracted driving. Avoid the temptation to check your phone while driving by stashing it in a glove compartment or purse, and don’t reach for it when you’re driving. If you need to use your phone, pull over into a parking lot or onto a wide shoulder before answering that text or making a call.

Know your limits.

It’s important to know how long you can drive without getting tired. It’s also important to know whether any aspects of driving are physically uncomfortable. If this is the case, you may be able to make adjustments that make driving easier. This can include things such as finding a vehicle that is more comfortable or that has more safety features.

Take a refresher course.

Special courses for older drivers can help you feel more confident on the road. Additionally, these can earn you a discount on your auto insurance—a win-win for everyone!

Even though your body changes as you get older, many older drivers are served well by their experience on the road. This can net you insurance discounts for being an experienced driver. Just be sure to pay attention to your body for the best experience while driving.

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