Safe Driving Tips for Seniors

Driving comes with risks at any age, but older adults have an especially high risk of injury or death. On average, each day more than 700 seniors are injured in car crashes, while 20 lose their lives.

Drivers over age 75 carry added risk, largely because they are physically more vulnerable to injuries. In general, the physical changes that come with aging, as well as reduced vision, cognitive function, and reflexes can all play a part in seniors’ risk on the road.

These safe driving tips for seniors will help reduce your personal risk and give you greater confidence when you get behind the wheel.

Avoid taking unnecessary chances. With sobering statistics like those above, seniors can be at a real disadvantage when driving. However, one of the most important safe driving tips for seniors is simple: Eliminate as many risks as possible. Wear your seatbelt. Limit your driving to daylight hours. Avoid distractions like your phone. Never drive under the influence, and always check traffic and road conditions before you leave home.

Monitor your vision and hearing. Seniors sometimes find themselves squinting more often or struggling to see clearly, especially in low light conditions. It’s also quite common for seniors to experience a degree of hearing loss as they advance further into their retirement years. Your senses play a vital role in keeping you safe on the road, so one important safe driving tip for seniors is to have your eyes and ears screened at least once a year—sooner if you notice any significant changes.

Know how medications affect you. Some medications commonly prescribed to seniors and driving simply do not mix. Any prescription or over-the-counter medication that makes you drowsy or affects your motor function is a red flag for driving. Read labels and talk with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure you understand the potential side effects of any medicine you take and how it might affect your safety when driving.

Keep your muscles and reflexes sharp. Staying physically active and maintaining good muscle tone are important for numerous health-related reasons as you age, but paying attention to your physical fitness is actually another safe driving tip for seniors. The nimbler you are in movement, the more likely you’ll be able to react quickly when you’re driving. What’s more, in the event of a senior citizen’s car accident, someone in strong physical condition has better chances of a good recovery.

Plan a safe route. It’s easy to get flustered when you lose your way, and that can lead to erratic or distracted driving. Before you leave home, plan your route. Take into account any stops you might need to make, and choose routes that will keep you in safe neighborhoods on well-lit, well-traveled roads, even if that means it might take you a little longer to get from point A to point B.

Brush up on your driving skills. Especially if you drive infrequently, or if you’ve had some near misses, it’s a good idea to get in some extra practice. You may be able to find programs in your area that are designed to promote driving safety for older adults. In addition to safe driving tips for seniors, these programs may even provide guided instruction. An added bonus: Some insurance carriers offer discounts for completing these kinds of courses.

Be realistic about your abilities. For many senior citizens, driving represents freedom and independence. A desire to maintain your autonomy and mobility is understandable, but if loved ones are worried about your safety on the road, it’s probably worth listening to what they have to say. Pushing your own limits could put yourself and others sharing the road in danger.

 

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