Driving allows older adults to remain mobile, active and independent. However, senior drivers are at an increased risk of crashes due to cognitive decline, physical impairment, slower reaction times and an increase in underlying health problems such as dementia, hearing impairment, vision issues, heart disease and sleep disorders. Additionally, some medications can also affect driving safety.
The CDC reports that drivers over the age of 75 have higher crash rates than middle-aged drivers aged 35-54. However, there are many things that seniors and their loved ones can do to improve the driving safety of older adults.
Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
For Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, we offer some helpful tips seniors can utilize to ensure they 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 if they become necessary, especially when driving. Additionally, talk to your doctor about current medications and whether they may cause drowsiness or other side effects. Get plenty of rest and avoid driving while sleepy or tired.
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, tinkering with the vehicle’s controls and features, using a cell phone, eating a snack – these are all tasks that take one’s focus off the road. Avoid them.
Make the necessary changes to driving practices
Certain situations can make driving uncomfortable for older adults. For instance, driving at night or in inclement weather conditions. When in doubt, trust your gut and avoid driving in any situation that makes you feel unsafe. Run errands during daylight hours or plan alternate routes if driving at high speeds on the freeway makes you nervous.
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 that you can see out the windshield with a full range of vision while still being able to properly reach the gas and brake pedals. There are also some custom adjustments such as extra-large mirrors, seat boosters and hand controls that can be added to further aid the senior driver.
Have a Professional Driving Evaluation
AAA recommends seniors consider getting a professional driving assessment completed regularly. These evaluations can help older adults recognize how their driving abilities may have changed ways that they may be unaware of.
Wondering if a driving evaluation is worth your time? Here are some signs you should consider allowing a professional to assess your abilities:
- You’re taking daily medications that have the potential side effect of drowsiness or affecting your reaction time.
- You have been feeling more anxious about driving at night.
- You were recently diagnosed with a new medical condition, such as diabetes, impaired vision, early-stage dementia, or you have a sleep disorder or have recently suffered a stroke, all of which could impact your driving abilities.
- You were in an accident, a near-miss accident or a minor crash like a fender bender recently.
- You’ve begun to get traffic tickets or warnings after going ticket-free for years.
- Friends and family members are starting to suggest you seek other forms of transportation, or are offering to drive you to appointments and errands.
A professional driving evaluation can help you determine your current skill level and note areas you may need to improve. 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 that older adults are confident, safe drivers. Contact us for more information.