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Safe Driving Tips for Senior Drivers

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Many daily tasks become more difficult—and dangerous—as we age. Operating a vehicle requires sharp reflexes, optimal alertness, and strong senses to remain safe and avoid accidents. However, being a senior doesn’t necessarily mean forgoing your independence and saying good-bye to your car keys for good. Read on for some helpful tips for older drivers to stay safe on the road.

Drive in good conditions

There are times and conditions when driving is more difficult and dangerous for any driver:

•    After dark, your vision may be impaired and increase the likelihood of an accident. If possible, limit your time behind the wheel to daylight hours. If you must drive after dark, stick to well-lit roads.
•    Rain, snow and other inclement weather can make roads treacherous and decrease visibility. Avoid driving less in than optimal weather conditions.
•    Stay on well-maintained roads and avoid twisting back roads with sharp curves, sudden dip or excessive potholes.

Know your limits

Staying safe on the road requires adhering to your physical limitations and not taking any risks when driving. If you begin to feel tired midday, you should avoid driving during those hours. Instead, run errands in the morning, or after a refreshing afternoon nap. If you are in pain or feeling under the weather, driving may not be a good idea that day.

Make sure you are comfortable

Comfort is a priority when driving to ensure you will be able to operate the vehicle properly. 

  • Make sure your seat is adjusted so you can comfortably reach the steering wheel and pedals.
  • Drive a vehicle that is the proper size for you. Make sure you are able to get in and out of the car easily.
  • Vehicle with power locks, power windows, and larger, easy-to-adjust mirrors are good options for senior drivers.
  • Dashboard dials should be able to be read easily.
  • Make sure you are able to easily turn your head and see clearly around your entire vehicle.
  • If you need any devices to further assist you with driving tasks, see an occupational therapist for suggestions.

Manage your health properly

If you have any chronic conditions that can affect your driving, such as diabetes or seizures, it’s important to take proper care of your health. Stay up-to-date with doctor visits and medications, and make sure to follow any medical advice given about driving with your condition.
Many medications cause drowsiness and it is not advised to drive while taking them. Make sure you understand your medication’s side effects and are aware of how they affect you before you get behind the wheel.

Take a driving refresher course

Enrolling in a driver refresher course for older drivers can be beneficial and make you feel safer in your vehicle. You may also save money on your car insurance depending on your provider. Research senior organizations and community programs to find an available class near you and get more information on enrollment. While many individuals are often too proud to admit the benefits of additional training—especially when they have been driving for years—being safe is always more important than pride.

Know your route in advance

Being lost is stressful and distracting—you want to be completely focus on driving tasks and not concerned with finding the right road or looking aimlessly for landmarks. Avoid venturing to new places by yourself and always make sure you know where you are going before you get in the car. A GPS device with voice instruction is a useful tool for older drivers. It will direct you step by step if you are driving somewhere unfamiliar and cannot remember exactly how to get there. Printing out directions or attempting to read maps while driving can be dangerous and should be avoided—by drivers of all ages.

Have regular hearing and vision exams

Our hearing and vision abilities begin to decrease over time. Bad eyesight greatly impedes the ability to drive safely, especially at night, and hearing impairment can make it difficult to hear an approaching car or horn signaling danger. If you suffer from poor hearing or vision, it is important to have proper aids to make driving safe for you. Have regular vision and hearing exams as suggested by your doctor to ensure you are wearing the proper glasses and hearing aids for your impairment.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on June 24, 2014

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