Senior Driving Tips
From the first day you got your driver’s license to today, being on the road gives you a sense of independence. As you age, driving tends to keep you more active when your physical and mental health may seem to tell you otherwise. But it’s a fact that the risk of being injured in a motor vehicle crash increases with age. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in the year 2015 alone more than more than 260,000 older adults were injured in automobile accidents.
That’s why understanding and remembering essential safe driving tips is more crucial than ever for seniors. Yes, with increased age comes increased risk, but placing an effort on a few added precautions can help keep you safer on the road, active and independent, for as long as possible.
Your Safe Driving Checklist: 7 Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
- Be realistic about your circumstances and ask yourself a few important questions. First, how is your eyesight? Does driving make you feel nervous, scared, or overwhelmed? Are loved ones concerned about you being behind the wheel? And do you ever drive with children or young adults? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you should seriously consider whether it’s safe for you (and for others) if you continue driving. Talk with your loved ones and your family doctor about their opinions, and make sure to tell them how you feel.
- Schedule a check-up for hearing and vision tests. Speaking of your family doctor, if you’re questioning whether you should continue driving a car, you should seek the professional opinion of your healthcare team. Vision and hearing can change as you get older, for example, by making it more difficult to see at night or challenging to hear other vehicles or emergency sirens. Other conditions that can make it more difficult to drive include: arthritis, cataracts, dementia, diabetes, Glaucoma, hearing impairments, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and seizures. Get the ‘OK’ from your primary care physician, optometrist, and audiologist regarding your physical health and how it impacts your safety behind the wheel.
- Understand how your medications can impact your driving ability. Some medications can affect your ability to operate a motor vehicle, and it’s common to take more medications as you age. Always ask the pharmacist about any new medication when it’s presented to you, including its side effects or risks associated with driving ability. Read the label carefully and follow directions exactly. If you feel drowsy or lightheaded for any reason, do not drive.
- Consider avoiding the road during dangerous or stressful conditions. If you can, try not to get behind the wheel during times when you might be more stressed, overwhelmed, or unsafe. For example, during inclement weather it may be more difficult to control your vehicle, or at night if your vision is worsening, it may be harder to see accurately. Your stress levels might be higher if you drive during rush hour, which can increase your chances of causing an accident (not to mention the health risks associated with high levels of stress). Consider changing your schedule to avoid rush hour, nighttime driving and inclement weather.
- Take a Mature Driving Course. Your local DMV likely offers a Mature Driving Course that teaches driving skills geared towards older adults and the problems they may experience with aging. For example, the course will review the effects of medication on the mind and body during vehicle operation, techniques to minimize blind spots, changing lanes and completing turns safely, and even state-specific laws for construction zones, school buses, and more. Some of it may be a refresh from previous driving courses, while some of the information geared towards older adults may be enlightening and help you take a safer approach to driving.
- Consider having a professional driving assessment. Maybe your loved one is pushing you to give up your license and you think you can safely operate a vehicle. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, undergoing a driving test can give you a professional’s opinion as to whether or not it’s safe for you to be on the road.
- Change your driving habits. You’ve probably spent many years behind the wheel, and in that timeframe have learned a thing or two about driving. But you may have also picked up a few bad habits that will do you more harm than good now that physical changes are impacting your driving ability. To be safe on the road, increase your following distance, start using your brakes earlier, avoid busy areas, and try to anticipate rather than react while driving. All of these are good habits to practice for a safe journey behind the wheel.
As you age and your risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents increases, there are plenty of safe driving tips for seniors that can help you stay on the road longer.
Maintain Your Independence at The Moorings at Lewes
Driving safely is just one way to maintain your independence – the other is to consider independent living at The Moorings. For over a decade, we have offered a continuum of care for vibrant seniors with a commitment to whole-person wellness. Contact us today for more information.