Did you know that more older adults are driving than ever before? The ability to drive is intrinsically tied to our sense — and reality — of being independent. But there’s no getting around the truth of the matter: Age diminishes some of the abilities that are involved in driving.
In general, seniors are safe drivers relative to other age groups. Adults ages 65+ are good at wearing safety belts, observing speed limits, engaging in less risky on-the-road behavior, and not drinking and driving. On the other hand, though, older people generally don’t see or hear as well, are slower to react, and may have trouble making quick decisions about distance, speed, and the movement of vehicles around them. Plus, they may have trouble turning to look over their shoulders at other vehicles.
To help ensure that you remain a good driver as long as possible, consider these tips:
•Have your vision and hearing tested regularly. Be sure to wear any prescribed glasses or hearing aids while driving. Keep your windows, mirrors, and headlights clean, and drive only in daytime hours if you have trouble seeing well at night.
•Turn down the radio and your phone. Or keep them off when you’re in traffic situations that demand your full attention.
•Stay physically active. You’ll want to try to maintain the agility to turn your body and head in both directions to check for vehicles behind and to the sides of your own.
•Take your medications as prescribed. Read the warning information in case any of your medications can cause drowsiness or other side effects that could impair your driving. Consult with your doctor regarding medications and health conditions.
•Take a defensive driving course or a refresher course designed specifically for seniors. Many communities offer these, and they can be extremely helpful.
•Get enough sleep. Adequate amounts of sleep can help anyone, regardless of age, to be a safer driver.
•Know your limitations. If you don’t drive as well at night, try to do most or all of your driving during the daytime hours. Not so good at driving in bad weather? Stay home during times of inclement weather if you can.
•Don’t talk and drive. Doing anything other than driving takes your attention away from the road and increases the odds of an accident. While you’re at it, don’t eat, put on makeup, or program your car radio while you’re driving.