As we age, certain tasks can become more difficult, including driving. However, driving is often viewed as a symbol of independence. Generally, adults want to maintain the ability to drive for as long as possible.
To overcome some of the unique challenges of staying safe on the road, you may need to adapt and embrace some changes. Explore safe driving tips and strategies that can help aging adults maintain their independence and safety on the road.
1. Get Regular Health Checkups
One of the most fundamental aspects of safe driving for seniors is maintaining good health. Regular check-ups with healthcare professionals are essential. Vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities can change with age, and these factors can significantly impact driving safety.
Older adults should have their eyes and hearing checked regularly. Additionally, consider cognitive assessments to evaluate memory, problem-solving skills, and reaction time.
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2. Manage Medications Properly
Seniors take more prescription medications than any other age group. Some medications could impact the senses that are crucial to safe driving. Taking medications improperly or mixing the wrong medications together could also result in dangerous side effects.
Consult with your healthcare provider to ensure your medications are not impairing your abilities. Be vigilant about reading warning labels on over-the-counter medications and understand how they may affect you.
3. Adjust Driving Habits
As we age, it’s essential to adapt our driving habits to our changing physical and cognitive abilities. Consider the following adjustments:
- Drive during daylight hours: Driving at nighttime can be difficult for anyone due to reduced visibility and increased risk. Limit your driving to daylight hours whenever possible.
- Avoid rush hour traffic: High-traffic periods can be stressful and demanding. Plan your trips to avoid congested times. If you do need to drive during rush-hour, try to use routes that are less congested.
- Use familiar routes: Stick to routes you know well to reduce the cognitive load while driving. Driving in a new place can be stressful and result in an increased risk of accidents.
- Increase following distance: Maintain a greater distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you. This provides more time to react to unexpected events.
- Reduce speed: Driving at or below the speed limit can provide more time to react to changing road conditions.
- Don’t drive in bad weather: Strong winds and heavy rain or snow can impact visibility and road conditions. Try to avoid driving in poor weather to reduce the risk of a car crash.
4. Stay Physically Active
Regular exercise can help seniors maintain their physical strength, flexibility, and overall health. A healthy body can better respond to the physical demands of driving. While you might not think of driving as a strenuous activity, it actually requires muscles and flexibility.
Exercise can maintain muscle strength and help improve joint mobility. In turn, this makes it easier to look over your shoulder and turn the steering wheel comfortably.
5. Maintain Good Vision
Good vision is essential for safe driving. Unfortunately, our eyesight tends to deteriorate as we get older. Regular eye exams are essential for detecting age-related eye conditions, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Wearing the right prescription glasses or contact lenses is equally important.
Additionally, ensure that your windshield is clean and free of streaks, which can affect your field of vision. And use anti-glare coatings on your eyeglasses to reduce glare from headlights, billboards, and other sources.
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6. Improve Hearing
Just like vision, we tend to lose hearing as we get older. Reduced hearing can significantly affect a senior’s ability to react to auditory cues while driving. These sounds can include sirens or horns.
Regular hearing check-ups can help identify and address any hearing issues. If you wear hearing aids, make sure they are working properly and wear them consistently.
7. Eliminate Distractions While Driving
Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents for drivers of all ages. Distractions could cause you to run a red light or miss seeing oncoming traffic. Seniors should be particularly cautious about eliminating distractions while in the driver’s seat. This includes:
- Not using a cellphone
- Turning down the radio
- Avoiding eating while on the road
Stay alert and focused on the road ahead!
8. Plan Your Routes
Planning your trips in advance can help reduce stress and uncertainty while driving. Using GPS devices or smartphone apps can make navigation more accessible. These tools can provide real-time traffic updates, identify nearby rest stops, and suggest alternative routes to avoid heavy traffic.
However, these devices can also become a distraction. That’s why familiarizing yourself with your route ahead of time is a great safety tip!
9. Choose the Right Vehicle
The choice of vehicle can significantly impact your safety on the road. While you might love the feel of a truck, it might not be the easiest vehicle to maneuver on the road. Look for vehicles with advanced safety features, such as lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. These technologies can provide extra layers of protection.
Regular maintenance and safety checks for your vehicle are also crucial to your safety. Regularly check tire pressure, car fluids, and perform other maintenance tasks on whatever vehicle you use.
10. Take Defensive Driving Courses
Most adults learned to drive when they were teenagers. While the basics of driving don’t change, rules of the road may change over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to take defensive driving courses — even as an adult.
These courses can help refresh your skills and introduce you to the latest safety techniques. They may also provide discounts on auto insurance for those who complete the course.
11. Be Prepared for Emergencies
Every driver should prepare for emergencies while on the road. You never know what could happen — the car could break down, you could get hit by a deer, or you might run into another driver. And you never know what the weather conditions will be when something drastic happens. Seniors especially are prone to injury related to extreme heat or cold.
Carry a well-stocked emergency kit in your car, including a first-aid kit, flashlight, blankets, and non-perishable food and water. It’s also a good idea to have a charged cell phone with you in case you need to call for assistance.
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12. Consider Giving Up Driving
In some situations, it may be best for an older adult to give up driving. There are state laws that help determine if a person is eligible to drive or not, including vision thresholds. However, many adults still cling to driving long after it becomes unsafe to do so. For the safety of everyone on the road, including yourself, consider that it may be time to let someone else take the wheel.
Here are some options to maintain independence even if you are not driving:
- Ask family members for help: Many older adults feel like a burden when they ask family members for transportation. However, most family members would be happy to help out when they can.
- Use public transportation: Many cities offer accessible and convenient public transit options. Explore these options to see if they can meet your transportation needs.
- Try carpooling or use ride-sharing services: These options allow you to get from point A to B without having to drive yourself. Plus, they can be less stressful and more convenient.
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Driving as a senior doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect. With the right precautions, seniors can maintain their independence while staying safe on the road. However, if it becomes unsafe to drive, please consider other alternatives. The caregivers at Caring Senior Service are happy to provide transportation as part of our services. Reach out to your local team to learn more.