Maximize Safety on the Road

Overview

Published: 08/17/2011

by Senior Care Society

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Aging does not automatically equal total loss of driving ability. There are many things you can do to continue driving safely, including modifying your car, the way you drive, and understanding and rectifying physical issues that may interfere with driving.

Take charge of your health

Regular check-ups are critical to keep you in the best possible driving shape. Other steps you can take include:

  • Getting your eyes checked every year. Make sure that corrective lenses are current. Keep the windshield, mirrors, and headlights clean, and turn brightness up on the instrument panel on your dashboard.
  • Having your hearing checked annually. If hearing aids are prescribed, make sure they are worn while driving. Be careful when opening car windows, though, as drafts can sometimes impair a hearing aid's effectiveness.
  • Talking with a doctor about the effects that ailments or medications may have on your driving ability. For example, if you have glaucoma, you may find tinted eyeglass lenses useful in reducing glare.
  • Sleeping well. Getting enough sleep is essential to driving well. If there are problems, try to improve nighttime sleep conditions and talk with your doctor about the effect of any sleep medications on driving.

Find the right car and any aids you need for driving

Choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. Keep your car in good working condition by visiting your mechanic for scheduled maintenance. Be sure that windows and headlights are always clean. An occupational therapist or a certified driving rehabilitation specialist, for example, can prescribe equipment to make it easier to steer the car and to operate the foot pedals.

Drive defensively

In these days of cell phones and digital music players, drivers are even more distracted than they used to be. This means you’ll want to take extra steps to drive safely, like leaving adequate space for the car in front of you, paying extra attention at intersections, and making sure you are driving appropriate to the flow of traffic. Avoid distractions such as talking on the phone while driving or trying to puzzle out a map, even if it’s a GPS on the car; pull over instead.

Make sure you allow sufficient braking distance. Remember, if you double your speed—say from 30mph to 60mph—your braking distance does not become twice as long, it becomes four times as far, even more if the road is wet or icy.

Know your limitations

If a driving situation makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many older drivers voluntarily begin to make changes in their driving practices. For instance, you may decide to drive only during daylight hours if you have trouble seeing well in reduced light. If fast-moving traffic bothers you, consider staying off freeways, highways, and find street routes instead. You may also decide to avoid driving in bad weather (rain, thunderstorms, snow, hail, ice). If you are going to a place that is unfamiliar to you, it is a good idea to plan your route before you leave so that you feel more confident and avoid getting lost.Listen to the concerns of others

If relatives, friends, or others begin to talk to you about your driving, it may be time to take a hard, honest look at your driving ability: