Older drivers can still be good, safe drivers, but there are some things to consider both for your safety and the safety of others. The Mayo Clinic recommends that seniors stay as active as possible in their day-to-day life which helps to maintain overall strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Drivers need to be able to turn and look over their shoulder and move their head with ease. They must be able to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and legs need to be strong enough to apply pressure to the gas pedal or brake.
A senior’s peripheral vision can decrease with age or from certain medications and other eye problems may cause drivers to have trouble seeing in the dark or experience blurred vision. Hearing problems can interfere with detecting sounds of sirens from emergency vehicles or approaching cars. Be vigilant about scheduling vision and hearing tests regularly as part of your wellness care and follow your doctor’s advice as to how often they should be done. Many problems can be corrected if caught early enough.
Remember that certain medications can cause drowsiness so make sure you know the side effects of your prescription drugs and do not drive if you are feeling sleepy. It may be a good idea to limit trips in the car to daylight hours and when the weather is good. Keep in mind that a person’s reaction time slows with age as do their motor skills. You may need to re-evaluate your driving every so few months, especially if you find yourself having incidences of accidents that almost happen.
The MedicineNet website has some safe driving tips for seniors:
Planning before you leave home:
- Plan to drive on streets you know.
- Limit your trips to places that are easy to get to and close to home.
- Take routes that let you avoid risky spots like ramps and left turns.
- Add extra time for travel if driving conditions are bad.
- Don’t drive when you are stressed or tired.
While you are driving:
- Always wear your seat belt.
- Stay off the cell phone.
- Avoid distractions such as listening to the radio or having conversations.
- Leave a big space, at least two car lengths, between your car and the one in front of you. If you are driving at higher speeds or if the weather is bad, leave even more space between you and the next car.
- Make sure there is enough space behind you. (Hint: if someone follows you too closely, slow down so that the person will pass you.)
- Use your rear window defroster to keep the back window clear at all times.
- Keep your headlights on at all times.
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