Getting older is an inevitable part of life. There’s simply no way to stop the passage of time and the changes that come with aging. From physical changes like decreased muscle strength and vision troubles to cognitive changes that can affect your memory, older adults may find it difficult to maintain their independence into their golden years.
Driving a car has always been a symbol of that independence and freedom. However, the physical and cognitive changes mentioned above can make getting behind the wheel challenging. It’s not only important that seniors remember the rules of the road to keep themselves and others safe, but they should also be able to react quickly in a hazardous situation.
The first week of December is known as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, created by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to promote “importance of mobility and transportation to ensuring older adults remain active in the community—shopping, working or volunteering—with the confidence that transportation will not be the barrier to strand them at home.”
Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
Reducing some of the risk factors seniors face as well as understanding any physical limitations can help them continue to remain safe drivers in their years ahead. In the spirit of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, we offer some helpful driving tips seniors can utilize to ensure they can keep themselves and others safe on the road.
Stay on top of health issues
Visit the doctor annually for vision and hearing checkups. Use glasses or hearing aids should they become necessary, especially when driving. Additionally, talk to the doctor about current medications and whether they may cause drowsiness or other side effects. Make sure to always get enough rest, too.
Understand the basics of defensive driving
Driving defensively is one of the top ways to stay safe behind the wheel. Defensive driving tips for seniors include leaving ample room from the car ahead for braking purposes, staying alert at intersections, driving consistently with the flow of traffic and checking blind spots before switching lanes.
Avoid distracted driving
There are more distractions than ever in vehicles today. Adjusting stereo channels, climate controls and navigation systems, reading incoming text messages or talking on cell phone, eating a snack – these are all tasks that take one’s focus off the task at hand, which is safely driving to one’s destination.
Make the necessary changes to driving practices
Certain situations can make driving uncomfortable for older adults. For instance, driving at night when seeing well in darkness is an issue or heading out into inclement weather conditions. When in doubt, avoid driving in any situation that could affect one’s safety behind the wheel. Run errands during daylight hours or plan alternate routes if driving at high speeds on the freeway is troublesome.
Utilize modifications to vehicles as needed
AAA offers some suggestions for seniors that include utilizing assistive accessories that can help make driving easier. Basic modifications include adjusting the seat to ensure the driver can see out the windshield with a full range of vision while still being able to properly reach the gas and brake pedals. However, there are also some custom adjustments such as broader mirrors, seat boosters and hand controls that can be provided to further aid the senior driver.
Senior Evaluations from DriveTeam
AOTA also recommends that senior drivers undergo a comprehensive driving evaluation to help further determine their skill level. DriveTeam is pleased to offer Senior Evaluations with a course fee discount available for couples. This three-phase evaluation will help determine cognitive skills, vehicle dynamic skills and on-street performance to help ensure older adults are confident, safe drivers. Contact us for more information.