Safety Tips for Older Drivers

One of the most important safety precautions one can take is to try and be self-aware even though it may be hard to identify problems that develop slowly over time.

Issues like vision or hearing loss, growing forgetfulness, or the effect of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are hardly noticed. Any one or a combination of these conditions can make driving dangerous.

Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Society to help promote road safety. The Alzheimer’s Society website has many helpful tips and resources, to visit it please click here.

• 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. You can also see an occupational therapist for special driving aids that can help with physical problems.
• Take it slow and give yourself plenty of room. If cars are passing you on both the right and left lanes, you may be driving more slowly than you used to. Move into the slow lane so others can pass you safely. Also, to avoid problems if the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly, stay back about two car lengths. Be sure to yield the right of way in intersections. Older drivers also have a large number of accidents at intersections when making left turns. It is best to avoid them altogether by making successive right turns and keeping going around the block or blocks to get to your destination.
• Avoid distractions. In general, many accidents happen because of distractions like talking on the phone, tuning the radio, eating or drinking, reaching for something, turning your head to talk with a passenger or looking around at the scenery instead of the road. Even a few seconds of taking your mind off driving can be precarious.
• Avoid uncomfortable driving situations. 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. Online services such as MapQuest, Google Maps, and Yahoo Maps can be very helpful.

Unsafe driving warning signs

• Problems on the road. Abrupt lane changes, braking, or acceleration. Failing to use the turn signal, or keeping the signal on without changing lanes. Drifting into other lanes. Driving on the wrong side of the road or in the shoulder.

• Trouble with reflexes. Trouble reading signs or navigating directions to get somewhere. Range-of-motion issues (looking over the shoulder, moving the hands or feet). Trouble moving from the gas to the brake pedal, or confusing the two pedals. Slow reaction to changes in the driving environment.

• Increased anxiety and anger in the car. Feeling more nervous or fearful while driving or feeling exhausted after driving. Frustration or anger at other drivers but oblivious to the frustration of other drivers, not understanding why they are honking. Reluctance from friends or relatives to be in the car with the senior driving
• Trouble with memory or handling change. Getting lost more often. Missing highway exits or backing up after missing an exit. Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs, pavement markings, or pedestrians.
• Close calls and increased citations. More frequent “close calls” (i.e., almost crashing), or dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, and curbs. Increased traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers.

Keywords: driving, seniors