Older driver safety tips

Older driver safety tips

Older driver safety is a concern for everyone. All too often, we hear news about older drivers getting in car accidents–sometimes tragic. Driving can be challenging for older adults, and sometimes the changes that contribute to their difficulties behind the wheel are gradual, making it hard to realize when it’s time to retire their drivers licenses.

Each state has different laws and rules for older drivers. Claims Journal released this 50-state look at the varying rules across the country governing drivers’ licenses for older adults: State by State Look at Driving Rules for Older Drivers.

There are things older drivers can do to remain safe on the road. The Mayo Clinic and the National Institute on Aging offer this advice:

Stay physically active.

This improves your strength and flexibility, making it easier to steer, look over your shoulder and brake safely.

  • See your doctor if you think that pain or stiffness gets in the way of your driving.
  • If possible, drive a car with automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, and large mirrors.
  • Be physically active or exercise to keep and even improve your strength and flexibility.

Schedule regular vision and hearing tests.

You may have trouble seeing out of the corner of your eye, or in nighttime conditions. Hearing degeneration can make it harder to notice horns, sirens, or your own car’s noises.

  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends getting your hearing checked every 3 years after age 50. Your doctor can treat some hearing problems.
  • Get a hearing aid to help if you need it—don’t forget to use it when you drive.
  • Try to keep the inside of the car as quiet as possible while driving.
  • Pay attention to the warning lights on the dashboard. They may let you know when something is wrong with your car.

Manage any chronic conditions–especially those that could impact driver safety, like diabetes, seizure conditions or degenerative diseases.

  • Tell a family member or your doctor if you become confused while driving.
  • Read your medicine labels carefully, and pay attention to any warnings.
  • Make a list of all your medicines, and talk to a doctor or pharmacist about how they may affect your driving.
  • Don’t drive if you feel light-headed or drowsy.

Understand your physical limitations and make any necessary adjustments.

For example, if your hands hurt when gripping the steering wheel, use a steering wheel cover that makes holding and turning the wheel more comfortable. You might ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist, who can offer assistive devices to help you drive or suggest specific exercises to help you overcome your limitations.

You might also adjust your vehicle or choose a different vehicle to better meet your needs. For example, many older drivers find it easier to step into and out of a bigger car. Vehicles that feature larger, easier-to-read dials on the dashboard are often popular with older drivers. Features such as large mirrors and power windows and door locks can be helpful, too.

Drive under optimal conditions

When in doubt, don’t go out. Bad weather like rain or snow can make it hard for anyone to drive. Try to wait until the weather is better, or use buses, taxis, or other transportation services available in your community. Don’t drive when angry or upset, and never after drinking alcohol.

Plan ahead

Look for different routes that can help you avoid places where driving can be a problem. Left turns can be quite dangerous because you have to check so many things at the same time. You could plan routes to where you want to go so that you only need to make right turns.

Update your driving skills

Have your driving skills checked. There are driving programs and clinics that can test your driving and also make suggestions about improving your driving skills. Update your driving skills by taking a driving refresher course. (Hint: Some car insurance companies may lower your bill when you pass this type of class.)

Know when it is time to give up driving.

We all age differently. For this reason, there is no way to set one age when everyone should stop driving. So, how do you know if you should stop? To help you decide, ask yourself:

  • Do other drivers often honk at me? Have I had some accidents, even if they are only “fender benders”?
  • Do I get lost, even on roads I know?
  • Do cars or people walking seem to appear out of nowhere?
  • Have family, friends, or my doctor said they are worried about my driving?
  • Am I driving less these days because I am not as sure about my driving as I used to be?
  • Do I have trouble staying in my lane?
  • Do I have trouble moving my foot between the gas and the brake pedals, or do I confuse the two?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to think about whether or not you are still a safe driver.

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