As people age, driving becomes more challenging. It’s an unavoidable fact that as age increases, reaction time slows down. Additionally, eyesight tends to weaken with age, as does hearing, and concentration can sometimes be more difficult as well. This doesn’t mean that seniors can’t drive safely, but it does mean that they need to take extra care and some precaution when driving. Senior drivers can acknowledge and practice this series of tips to better guarantee safer circumstances while navigating the road.
1) Wear glasses
The first thing that any senior should consider when operating a vehicle of any sort is whether or not their vision is sufficient for safe driving. Drivers of any age should always make sure their prescriptions are current as well as accurate. Never operate a vehicle without proper eyewear, if applicable, and always make sure to keep contacts or prescription glasses free of dirt, dust, and other debris. Seniors who do not wear glasses can also ensure safer vision by adjusting seats and mirrors to comfortable positions and keeping all windows clean. Eye exams, on average, are administered every one to two years at least. If you feel that your vision has changed, then it is important to schedule an appointment with an optometrist as soon as possible.
2) Be conscious of medications
Driving while taking prescribed medications can be dangerous as many drugs have side effects that impact vision, balance, coordination and judgement. While many prescription drugs may have minor side effects, the interaction your body will have to them on a day to day basis is unpredictable. Never combine prescriptions with alcohol, and always make sure to follow the proper dosage and instructions. Do not neglect to take a medication with food if the instructions call for it, and always stay hydrated. It is vital that drivers, especially seniors, monitor their prescribed medications and handle them responsibly so as to avoid accidental injury or death.
3) Avoid bad weather
If possible, try to avoid inclement weather when driving. Rain can wash out roads and create slick conditions while also impairing vision. Snow and ice are cause for road and highway closures, and the brightness from the white can be blinding. If planning a trip, make sure to check the forecast and reroute when necessary. Never drive through storms if they can be avoided, and always make sure to seek proper shelter if the situation calls for it. If you do find yourself driving in conditions such as torrential downpour, then turn on your hazard lights and pull to the side of the road until the storm calms or passes. More unique weather, such as dust storms, can occur and create zero visibility. Dust storms are particularly dangerous due to flying dirt and debris. Drivers should never leave the vehicle during a dust storm.
4) Avoid driving at night
Similar to ensuring good vision, senior drivers should never drive at night or in the dark. Darkness can hinder eyesight and visible distance, and if an animal, person or foreign object should enter the road, the driver would be less likely to spot it and react accordingly. If driving at night is inevitable, always inspect all headlights and blinkers to guarantee proper guidance and signals. Never drive at night without your lights on, and always switch between brights and low beams to accommodate visibility. Driving with lights off can also prevent vehicles from anticipating when your vehicle is about to stop or is slowing down. Brake lights should always be in good working condition enhance the safety of all pedestrians and vehicles.
5) Refresh your knowledge
All rules in life are bound to change, and that goes for driving regulations as well. It is important to stay current with updates in traffic laws, technology and road development. There is no shame in reviewing the basic principles of operating a motor vehicle. Seniors are subject to years and years of change in transportation, and as new cars and designs are implemented, so are new traffic regulations. Knowing current requirements can help you avoid tickets, vehicle malfunction and accidents. Watching morning traffic reports on your local new station can also enable more efficient navigation and guidance around motor vehicle accidents.
6) Have quality insurance
Everyone needs to stay protected, and many auto insurance providers cater to the needs of senior citizens. While seniors are statistically at a higher risk of auto related accidents and injuries, companies also understand that with age comes wisdom and caution. And they understand that everyone likes to save money. Several establishments reduce premiums for senior citizens simply based on their age. Others reward seniors for staying educated and completing defensive driving courses for a low cost of $15. Those who don’t typically drive are also in luck as many companies will offer a “low mileage discount” just for driving fewer miles. The logic behind that is simple. Driving less means that seniors are at a lower risk of involvement in a motor vehicle accident.
7) Get your hearing checked
Hearing is just as important as vision when it comes to operating a vehicle. While good eyesight provides a necessary awareness for drivers, sufficient hearing is also key in the perception of oncoming traffic, obstacles and emergency personnel. It is essential that all drivers are capable of hearing horns, sirens or even a collision. The two senses work together to provide successful reactions to impairment, inclement weather, reckless driving and vehicle failure. It is also illegal for traffic to not slow or stop when an emergency vehicle is approaching. If a driver cannot hear, then it is unlikely that they will be able to respond to an emergency situation in a timely and appropriate manner. If you feel that your hearing is impaired, then make sure to visit a doctor for an assessment. Always ensure that hearing aids are in working order and are adjusted accordingly.
Exercise does not directly affect driving, however if provides for a healthier body and attention span. Regular exercise conditions hand and eye coordination as well as helps to maintain alertness. Physical activity will build strength and enhance the ability to steer and operate pedals with ease and care.
It also helps to condition joints and muscles for a better grip and quicker reflexes. Overall, exercise just provides energy and mental presence to enable safer driving habits and maintain a longer attention span for the road.
9) Maintain a healthy diet
Eating and exercise go hand in hand, and maintaining a healthy and well balanced diet will produce more energy and alertness in drivers. Seniors need to monitor blood sugar levels and ingest fruits and vegetables that can contribute to the regulation of blood sugar and the overall cardiovascular system. It has been proven that a diet high in vegetable intake can prevent and reduce symptoms associated with diabetes, heart diseases and other types of illness. Many fruits act as natural pain relievers and can ease discomfort caused by arthritis or decrease in bone density. Nutrition is crucial in the safety and well-being of senior drivers.