Tips for Older Drivers

Becoming more self aware and taking responsibility is key for older drivers to continue driving safely. Learn how to review and change your driving habits, plan ahead, and make adjustments to your vehicle. Stay safe on the road with these tips for older drivers.

Tips for Older Drivers
Are You an Older Driver? 

Compensating for Your Limitations

Tips for older drivers -- taking responsibility and becoming more self aware is a key to driving safely on later years. Consider changing your driving habits. Taking time to review your driving habits and make corrective changes may make it possible for the freedom and independence that driving brings to continue.

If you are anxious and overwhelmed by having to pay attention to signs, signals, or having to drive at speeds to keep up with oncoming traffic you may consider how, when, and where you drive.

Take time to plan your trips ahead and combine some of your activities with errands. Consider driving less at night, during heavy traffic times, and in bad weather. Take routes that are familiar to you. Don’t use freeways and try to avoid merges or left hand turns. Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.

If you must drive at night, avoid looking at oncoming lights, instead glance toward the edge of the right side of the road.

More Tips For Older Drivers

When driving in unfamiliar territory, plan your route in advance and write out your itinerary. Don’t try to read a map while driving. If you are unsure of where you are going, take time to pull off into a safe area, where you can review your written instructions and refresh your memory or make route changes. Avoid fatigue on long trips by taking a break at least every 100 miles or every 2 hours. Take time to stretch your legs, walk around and have a snack. Avoid eating big meals when driving on a long trip, as it may make you feel sleepy. Do not drive at times when you are normally in bed for the same reason.

Always wear a seat belt. Seat belts can double your chances of surviving a serious crash. To wear a seat belt properly avoid excessive slack in the belt and position it over the shoulder, across the chest, and low on the lap. It is important to note that many cars are now equipped with air bags. It is still very important to wear a seat belt, as it prevents you from hitting the steering wheel, the windows and keeps you from being thrown from the vehicle. As we age, we are more likely to be injured or killed due to more fragile bones, and the reduced ability to withstand trauma.

Avoid distractions while driving such as eating in the car or smoking while driving. If conversation is distracting, ask your passengers to limit their conversation. If you have hearing problems, keep radio noise to an absolute minimum. It may be a time to utilize your passenger as another set of eyes and ears. The passenger may assist with reading road signs, markings and hazards. Many newer vehicles have many “bells and whistles”, dashboards displays, warning signs, and now global positioning systems. These can be very distracting to that aging driver.

Tips For Older Drivers Continues

Make adjustments to your vehicle to meet your changing physical needs. If you are used to driving a stick shift, it may be time to consider a car with automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. A light colored car can be seen two to four times better at a distance than a darker car. So when you are in the market for a new car this is a fact that you will want to keep in mind.

A seat cushion or back cushion may be a benefit for helping your line of vision. You should be able to see three or more inches above the steering wheel.

As we age we lose height. Make sure you are not using just your toes to operate the pedals. You should be able to use the full ball of your foot on the pedals to properly operate the vehicle. You can purchase a device that can raise the gas pedal.

Be aware of the blind spots while driving. You can reduce or eliminate those blind spots by leaning your head against the driver’s side window and adjust the left mirror so that you can barely see the side of your car. Take time to lean toward the middle of the vehicle and adjust the right mirror the same way. Add blind spot mirrors on side mirrors, if needed.

Tips For Older Drivers to keep you safe

Keep windshields and lights clean for better visibility. If you wear glasses while driving it is important to keep them clean as well. A car with a clear windshield is important. A tinted windshield can reduce the amount of light entering the eye. It is better to wear good sunglasses in bright sunlight.

Avoid glasses with wide frames at the temple, as they can block your side vision. Do not wear sunglasses or tinted glasses for night driving.

Keep headlights, tail lights and side windows clean on the inside and out.

Check your windshield wipers often and change them when needed.

Have your eyesight and hearing checked regularly by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. Don’t ignore changes in vision. Be aware if you are having more difficulty changing focus from distant to near objects. Are you more sensitive to glare, and adapt more slow to darkness. Your ability to quickly and accurately distinguish colors may diminish and can make a difference at a traffic light.

Don’t drink and drive. Alcohol can increase the effects of certain drugs to a dangerous point. Serious adverse reactions could occur.

Keep fit. Flexibility is a must. Aging adults with arthritis or osteoporosis, as well as just the physical changes that occur with aging can decrease your ability to perform the physical motions that are needed for safe driving. Maintaining an active lifestyle will help to eliminate some of these problems.

Consider a Driver Refresher Course for seniors. AARP’s 55 ALIVE Mature Driving Program and AAA offer courses. There is a financial bonus to taking these courses, as your insurance company make give you a discount on your insurance premium.

Consider having a cell phone to use for safety’s sake. But use it for emergencies and not when you are driving.

Using these tips for older drivers will make you a safer driver.

Have more questions? Check out the Frequently Asked Question section of the website. You will find a lot of different questions answered directly.
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