Everyone goes through the aging process differently, but driving is one of the most common challenges for older adults. Seniors often have a wealth of experience behind the wheel, but physical changes and new laws can put our skills to the test.
Fortunately, there are many ways that seniors can improve their driving and avoid handing over their keys until well into their golden years. If you’re over the age of 65, consider these safety tips for senior drivers and consider modifying your habits to keep everyone safe.
Assess Your Sight and Hearing
Driving is all about seeing and hearing, so it’s crucial that seniors get regular checkups from their physicians. Each year, have your eyes and ears checked out to ensure that glasses, contact lenses, and hearing aid prescriptions are up-to-date.
Overall, it’s important to understand your driving strengths and limitations and listen to the concerns of trusted friends, relatives, and your doctor.
Address Stiffness and Mobility Issues
Driving requires you to turn your neck and look over your shoulder, both difficult tasks when you suffer from mobility issues. If you suffer from leg pain, it can be challenging to apply the appropriate amount of pressure to the accelerator and brake pedals. Stretching regularly and staying physically active can help retain flexibility over time.
Take a Defensive Driving Refresher Course
It’s easy to lose driving confidence if you don’t do it every day or keep up with news about regularly changing driving laws. One of the best ways for seniors to get their confidence back and drive safely is by taking a defensive driving course. These courses can be completed in a classroom or online at your own pace.
Discuss Medications with Your Doctor
Medications almost always come with a risk of side effects. While they may be essential to your health, they could also impair your driving. Discuss medications with your doctor and specifically ask if they could affect your ability to drive and what you can do about it.
Avoid Night Driving and Traffic
Night driving is often challenging for seniors because of decreased visibility and hidden obstacles. When possible, avoid driving at night to reduce risks and also during times of heavy traffic. Traffic can be very stressful, so aim to avoid unnecessary stress to protect your health and safety.
Consider Adaptive Devices
Based upon your individual needs, it may be beneficial to install adaptive devices in your vehicle and learn how to use them. These are some of the most common adaptive devices that can help seniors drive safely:
Ask your equipment installer or rehabilitation specialist to train you how to use your new equipment and practice driving in a safe, controlled environment. You should also choose a user-friendly vehicle that you feel comfortable, without being bombarded by modern technology that makes you more distracted than safe.
Understand Licensing Laws
Although it’s as much of a legal issue as a safety one, seniors should understand the licensing laws in their state. AAA, for example, has a helpful map to select your state and read about senior-specific laws and programs. You will likely need to renew your license and take driving tests more often as you age, which is why driving refresher courses are so useful.
Overall, it’s important to understand your driving strengths and limitations and listen to the concerns of trusted friends, relatives, and your doctor. Following these recommendations may be enough for many seniors; however, others may need to consider getting a professional evaluation by a certified driver rehabilitation specialist and looking into transportation alternatives.