Driving safely is especially important for senior citizens, says the Automobile Club of America (AAA).
There are more aged drivers, aged 70 and older, on the road today than ever before. Through many educational programs, better roads and better built cars, driving today is safer than ever before. Nevertheless, because of the many health issues seniors cope with, as well as the medications they take, seniors need to be extra careful when they get behind the wheel.
Here are several safety tips for seniors suggested by the AAA:
Driving Safely: Make Sure You Can Read Signs
Vision declines as we age. For example, many chronic health conditions can compromise driving skills, like cataracts, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and sleep apnea. If you have diabetes, you know that your blood sugar can suddenly dip, especially if you get stressed when in heavy, slow-moving traffic.
So ask yourself these questions and be honest with your answers:
1. Do you frequently have difficulty reading street signs and seeing street markings?
2. Does driving leave you feeling anxious and stressed?
3. Have friends or family members expressed concern regarding your driving, or said they don’t feel safe with you behind the wheel?
4. Do you have difficulty with certain physical requirements of driving? For example, do you have trouble looking over your shoulder when changing lanes?
5. Are you currently taking medication that causes drowsiness or otherwise impedes your ability to drive?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, and you want to keep driving, consider these steps.
Be Honest With Yourself
- Rethink your meds. Many medications can make you drowsy or affect your concentration. Your doctor may be able to suggest a drug without those side effects. Your doctor may also give you certain driving restrictions — such as avoiding night driving or curvy country roads. — Doctors are getting some training on this topic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Geriatrics Society teamed up to publish the Clinician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers. The guide says that many older drivers successfully self-regulate their driving after it becomes clear that certain restrictions are warranted.
- Get a consultant. They’re called driver rehabilitation specialists, and they help if you’re becoming anxious or uncertain about your ability to safely pilot a vehicle. A specialist will assess your abilities and offer advice to help you drive more safely. For example, he or she may suggest vehicle modifications that could help make your time behind the wheel less physically taxing. Many specialists offer discounts to seniors. And your health insurance may cover part or all of the evaluation.
- Take a course. Today’s driving environment is vastly different from when you first got licensed. New laws (such as those designed to prevent distracted driving) and new technologies are part of the equation. A course geared toward older drivers can help you navigate this ever-changing landscape. Participating in a senior driving course could qualify you for a car insurance discount.
- Upgrade your car. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has identified several technology upgrades that reduce crashes for older drivers.For example, rear view cameras that can help drivers see while backing up, automatic emergency braking systems, and collision warning systems.
For seniors, the guiding principle is get smart and drive within your capabilities.