If you (or someone you know) are closer to retirement than high school graduation, it might be time to reevaluate if you can still safely drive your vehicle. No judgment here – getting older is not for the faint of heart! There are many age-related health concerns that may impair your driving ability, so check out these 10 tips for safer senior driving.
Some of these tips will be applicable to drivers of ALL ages. Regardless of how old you are, safe driving tips will always include:
1. Always buckle up! Seat belts have been proven to save lives over and over again through the years. It is always a good idea to put that belt on before starting the car. This is a great habit to cultivate, and research has shown that wearing a seat belt definitely decreases your risk of death or dismemberment.
2. Never drink and drive! Again, good advice for everyone, but it is especially important for older drivers. As you age the ability to process alcohol may change. This coupled with the medications that many seniors take may make for a dangerous combination. Better to stick to sweet tea or soda if you are driving.
3. What meds do you take? Speaking of medications, be aware of what you are prescribed and what the side effects may be of your medication. Some drugs may cause you to be sleepy or less alert than usual; others can affect your reflexes or attention span. Better to talk to your primary care provider or pharmacist to make sure you won’t have any problems once you are behind the wheel.
4. New phone…who dis? NEVER get distracted by your cell phone while driving, whether it’s to take a call or read a text. Distracted driving is a serious problem, so mute your phone before starting the engine. If you can, make sure that you have an automatic response while you are in motion so that friends and family will know that you are driving and will call or text them back as soon as the wheels stop rolling.
5. It’s lunchtime! Again, good advice for everyone: don’t eat while behind the wheel. Eating while driving can be as distracting as a cell phone, especially if you have something messy to consume (no chips and queso when you are in the driver’s seat!) Always pull over if you need a bite to eat. This will definitely keep you safer while on the road.
If you happen to be part of the Baby Boomer generation, here are some tips specifically for senior citizens to enable you to keep your keys for longer:
6. Don’t skip your annual exam! A physical once a year is a must for anyone over the age of 40, and is especially important as you get older. These checkups are a great place to talk to your doctor about any age-related changes that you may be concerned about. Your doctor can also perform tests such as for macular degeneration, muscle weakness, and dementia to make sure that all of your mental and physical cylinders are firing correctly.
7. Drive while daylight awaits! It’s much easier to see in the daylight, so try to avoid driving at night if you can. Even with 20/20 vision, the glare of headlights, neon signs, and other bright lights can disorient you and make driving a bit more difficult. Sometimes the older we get we can experience “night blindness” or even lose our periphery vision in the dark, so stick to driving before the sun goes down if you can.
8. Which is the safest route? Sometimes finding the safest route to take can help protect you as you age. Safe route can mean avoiding busy highways, trying to avoid tricky intersections, staying away from peak rush hour traffic, and looking for well-lit streets and easy parking.
9. Is public transit/Uber an option? Sometimes the best way to get somewhere is to let someone else do the driving. If you live near public transit then definitely use that service. If not, there is always the option of calling an Uber, especially if you have somewhere to go at night. Public transit and Uber are also the best choices to make so you can avoid driving in dangerous weather – try not to drive if it’s snowing, raining, foggy, or any other condition that could be hazardous.
10. Technology can be your best friend! Vehicles today are equipped with some of the best lifesaving technology known to man. If you are able to, invest in a car that includes any or all of these options: life alert systems, back-up cameras, self-parking systems, GPS systems, forward collision warning capabilities, automatic crash notification, and blind spot warnings.
Keeping you in the driver’s seat is the goal, so follow these tips to stay there as long as possible!