03 Apr 6 Tips for Safe Senior Driving
This guide can help seniors and older adults stay safe on the road.
April 3, 2020
Safe driving is an issue of ability and not age. Unfortunately, the effects of age can take a toll on your mind and body. As people get older, their physical strength decreases, reflexes slow down, and hearing and vision diminish. Older adults may be more vulnerable than younger drivers to injuries resulting from accidents
Recognize when your abilities may be on the decline and know the warning signs of unsafe driving. Seek expert help or support as needed.
Follow these 6 tips for safer senior driving.
Don’t use your cell phone when driving.
This is a terrible idea at any age, while against the law as well (by texting) in Pennsylvania. For senior drivers, they are slower to react in a driving emergency. This is true even without an added cell phone distraction.
Drivers are 400 percent more likely to be in a car crash when they use a cell phone while driving. That is according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Even using a hands-free component won’t lower this risk. Also, a Harvard study uncovered that the use of cell phones diminishes the reaction time and performance of older adult drivers more than in their younger counterparts.
Be extra careful at intersections.
As many as 40 percent of deadly collisions for those 70 and older happen at intersections. Alternatively, only 23 percent of the fatal crashes of drivers occur for those aged 35 to 54 . The biggest contributor? Failing to yield was the number one cause, particularly when turning left.
Minimize driving at night.
Traffic death rates soar at night as opposed to driving during daylight hours. Statistics show that the rate of deaths triples at night. When older adults go out driving at night, they are putting themselves at elevated risk. This is particularly true when driving on unfamiliar roads.
Seniors may face challenges with light glare, signs that are hard to read, and other challenges unique to driving in the dark. At a minimum, older adults would be wise to avoid roads with inadequate lighting, twists and turns, and minimal signage.
Evaluate your abilities and look for warning signs that may show driving challenges or impairments.
Keep an eye out for reactions or inputs from other individuals that might indicate that you face some difficulties driving. These could include concerns relayed by loved ones, honking horns, or police warnings. They could indicate that your driving capabilities may be cause for concern .
If you think you might be struggling, attempt to minimize your time behind the wheel. That could be through shorter trips or combining trips to minimize overall road time. Ideally, these will be limited to daylight hours and when weather conditions are best. Make sure that your car is in good shape, keep your distance from other vehicles, and allow additional time to travel so that you aren’t rushed or tempted to speed.
Limit your driving speed at night.
Low light conditions in night driving present additional challenges for seniors. Visibility is reduced, and your view is limited. This is a problem of course for all drivers, but the conditions can impact older drivers even more.
Low light can take your eyes some adjustment to get used to. Some individuals may not adapt well to low light in general, and this concern tends to increase in seniors. Additionally, glare takes time for the eyes to recover from. This recovery time usually increases in seniors, especially if they have other conditions such as cataracts.
As we age, our pupils get smaller. They won’t dilate as rapidly in dark conditions. As a result, ambient light sensed by an older adult is reduced. This can negatively impact the reaction time of older motorists driving at night. By keeping your speed lower at night, you can counter the negative effects of driving with age such as delayed recovery times and eye adjustments needed to safely drive at night. Consider your overall eye health and how it relates to safe driving.
Get regular health and safety checkups.
Get regular medical check-ups that monitor changes in your vision, hearing or mobility. If your primary care doctor or optometrist observes any concerns or changes, follow their recommended advice for glasses, hearing aids, or other guidance.
Additionally, it’s crucial to properly manage any chronic conditions like diabetes. Understand the medications that you are taking and how they could affect your driving abilities as well. Finally, consider clinical or other driver safety programs that might be available in your area.
By better understanding your risks and limitations while following this guidance, you can continue to drive safely and securely as an older adult. Granted, it is important to know when you may no longer be able to safely drive which can be a very challenging consideration for seniors or their loved ones.
Chosen Family Home Care provides supportive caregivers that can assist with arranging transportation needs or running errands. This helps ensure your independence, safety, and quality of life as you age. Even if you can continue to drive, a supportive at-home caregiver can assist in other ways, with hands-on support for activities of daily living.