Seven Safety Suggestions for Senior Drivers (DMV.org)
Senior drivers have driving experience, which is a big advantage when it comes to highway safety. Still, you need to be able to adapt to changes in traffic laws, equipment, skills, and even other vehicles on the road. Consider these seven safety suggestions as tips to help you in your driving:
1. Avoid Nighttime Driving
After you turn 35 or 40 years old, your eyesight begins to age. You might find yourself needing glasses for reading and also for night driving. When the sun goes down, the roads get dark and the glare from other headlights can make it hard to see beyond your dash. Travel with an alert passenger to help you scan for driving hazards.
Beyond decreased night vision, a more severe danger lurks in the shadows. Fatigue is a serious and underestimated safety hazard. If you are tired, even feeling just a little sleepy, you need to get off the road. Better yet, avoid the risk of fatigue by running your errands during the day.
2. Take a Driver Course
You may feel out of place in a driver education course with dozens of teens; what first-time drivers need to learn is not really what you need. A mature driver’s course is geared toward seniors and usually covers topics like pedestrians, yielding, four-way stops, and lane changes.
Socially, you may enjoy spending time with other senior drivers. As for the learning endeavor, we often learn more from other students―in this case, seniors―than we do from instructors. You’ll have to find a mature driving course in your area. A good place to start is with retirement or travel associations.
3. Skip the Heavy Traffic
Common sense tells you to avoid heavy traffic; regardless, who wants to be stuck on the highway during rush hour. Inevitably, you will find yourself in heavy traffic because you have an appointment you can’t miss. Be confident because you can deal with heavy traffic if you prepare yourself.
Pack your patience; getting anxious and exasperated will only increase your risk of an accident. Always use signals and warn other drivers in advance of what you are planning to do. Prepare for exits and turns by getting into the proper lane and signalling early.
You can also learn alternate routes so that when you do have to venture out during rush hour or holiday weekends, you can avoid heavy traffic.
4. Do a Warm-Up
If there is one overall theme for driver safety, it is preparedness. You inspect your vehicle before starting the engine and you plan your trip before hitting the highway. You will find it helpful and refreshing to warm up your body before sitting in the driver’s seat because your body and mind can become stressed when driving.
To warm up your body, stretch your neck, torso, and shoulders. Try rotating your torso, bending your chin to your chest, and pressing your shoulders toward your back. Gentle stretching will improve your range of motion, help fight off fatigue, and reduce tension.
5. Prepare to Share the Road
When you are focusing intently on your driving, it is easy to ignore other vehicles on the road. You can avoid accidents by watching for pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, and horses.
Recreational use of highways has never been more popular. Your challenge is to stay focused while scanning continuously for people running, walking dogs, rollerblading, or skateboarding.
As you plan for your trip, spend a few moments thinking about who you are likely to see on the road―kids walking to school, off-road vehicles crossing the road, vehicles pulling trailers, and even horseback riders.
6. Think When Selecting an Instrument Panel
It is easy to be dazzled by the new car models designed with the most modern technology. The instrument panel is how you interface with your vehicle; select an instrument model that is easy for you to read.
Some instrument panels bombard you with information that isn’t important to the safe operation of the car. In fact, the fancy panels can even demand your attention while you are trying to concentrate on your driving. Choose an instrument panel that appeals to you, and don’t be seduced by flashing LEDs and talking dashboards.
7. Steer Clear of Distractions
The instrument panel is not the only distraction for you while driving. Some drivers find conversation a distraction―have you ever missed a turn because you were deep in discussion? Anything that takes your eyes off the road, even for a second, is a distraction.
If you need further incentive to resist using the cellular phone or checking a map, research your state vehicle code because some states now have driver distraction laws with serious consequences.
You can even distract yourself by worrying or pondering other distracting thoughts. When you catch your mind wandering, you need to refocus. For example, pull over and do some warm-up exercises to put your mind and muscles back on track.
Vision Safety Tips
As you age, you’ll have to deal with a lot of changes. Because driving is so important to you and also inherently dangerous, it is important to learn new ways to stay safe. If these safety tips help you, be sure to tell a friend. After all, highway safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Medications & Driving on DMV.org
For just about every aliment you might have there most likely exists a medication to tackle the problem. You can simply head down to any grocery or drug store and find isles brimming with what is commonly termed over-the-counter relief. For more serious infirmities your doctor may prescribe a medication for you. But new insight is emerging from various studies on just how risky some of these drugs may be when incorporated with driving. Some of the findings have actually shown that many allergy medications we rely on each year to help us manage through a day are worse than alcohol.
The active ingredients in allergy medication are one of the major causes for concern. As a group they are referred to as antihistamines. There are a variety of types, with some of the most prevalent being:
All of the popular brands (Clairton, Benadryl, Sudafed, etc.) use antihistamines. But the ingredient is not limited specifically to allergy medicine. You will find it in cough medicine, cold tablets, flu therapies, or just about any drug that “helps you rest.”
The rule of thumb is to simply use extra caution to avoid driving while impaired. Take extra time to go over the fine print if you are taking any type of prescription drug to treat allergies, anxiety, high blood pressure, serious pain, depression, or cholesterol. These tend to pack quite a punch, especially if mixed with alcohol.
Some of the changes you experience as you get older can affect your ability to drive safely.
The good news is that people who keep track of changes in their eyesight, physical fitness and reflexes may be able to adjust their driving habits so they stay safe on the road.
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Car Fit Program
Older drivers are often the safest drivers in that they are more likely to wear their seatbelts, and less likely to speed or drink and drive. However, older drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously injured when a crash does occur due to the greater fragility of their aging bodies.
Driver safety programs improve adult driver safety by addressing cognitive abilities and skills, however, older drivers can also improve their safety by ensuring their cars are properly adjusted for them. A proper fit in one’s car can greatly increase not only the driver’s safety but also the safety of others.
If you would like to participate in a local Car Fit event, please let us know using the comment form on our contact us page and we will get back in touch with you. Thank you.
Taking A Mature Driver Course on DMV.org
Aging is a fact of life and as mature driver you have to deal with the affects aging has on your driving. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up your license. In fact, if you are willing to take a mature driver’s course you might just hold on to your license for years to come.
A mature driver’s safety course can update your knowledge of the current driving environment. You will learn specifics about how age affects your driving, and most importantly, you will learn ways to avoid crashes. Once you’ve completed a driver’s course, contact your insurance company. You may be eligible for a safe driver discount.
Topics Covered in a Mature Driver’s Course
There are many different driver improvement courses to choose from. Some states have an official approval process for driver courses and some states even teach the classes in-house. But you, a mature driver, have unique needs and should seek out a driver improvement course geared to you.
Basic Traffic Rules
In a carefully designed mature driver’s course you will relearn basic traffic rules. It has probably been a long time since you read a drivers manual so a review of road signs, signals, and markings is important for keeping current.
Driver Fitness and Aging
Perhaps even more important is how your physical and emotional fitness impacts your driving. Aging can change your senses, and as the main interface between you and your environment, aging senses can be dangerous. In your mature driver’s course, you will learn how to compensate for hearing loss, vision changes, and even slower reaction times.
Once you appreciate your limitations, practice newly learned techniques like scanning and safety cushions. Scanning may seem difficult at first, but your mature driver’s course can teach you how to make it a habit; you will quickly catch on.
Slower reaction time is normal for aging drivers. Learn to use safety cushions―like a buffer―to put distance between you and other drivers. You will learn to avoid crashes.
Knowing when to turn over the car keys is a touchy topic, and it is only natural for some to deny bad driving skills. The mature driver’s course will discuss some warning signs that you can watch for―when you recognize the signals in yourself or a loved one, it is time to think about giving up the wheel.
Driving in Traffic
Congestion from traffic has increased through the years; although you may pine for simpler days when the roads were inviting and wide open, the reality exists on every bumper-to-bumper highway. Commutes and school schedules can jam up the morning and afternoon roadways.
Part of your mature driver’s course will focus on highway driving, exiting, lane changes, and maneuvering around big trucks. Of course, if driving in traffic makes you nervous, just don’t do it. Read up on safety suggestions that deal with heavy traffic; try asking someone else to drive, or schedule your day around the rush hour.
Sharing the Road
Patience and defensive driving will help you to deal with other vehicles on the road. During your course you will really appreciate learning about aggressive drivers, tractor-trailers, motorcycles, and driver distraction because you need to drive alongside, not into, these other motorists.
When you are in the midst of an urgent driving situation it may be hard to remember exactly what your instructor said about aggressive drivers; ask for tips on how to recall your lessons when you are in the middle of a stressful driving situation.
Many of us remember the days when our cars didn’t’ even have seat belts, never mind air bags and other personal safety devices. Fortunately, injury and fatality rates are improved because of engineering and technology.
Your instructor won’t be able to review every vehicle model and make, but in general, there are safety features common to most cars. You will learn how to use your car’s safety equipment, like anti-lock brakes, to help prevent crashes.
Links & Resources
- 2010 US Census
- A Place for Mom – Assessment Tool
- AAA Car Fit Program
- AARP Online Safety Course
- Active Aging Programs
- American Medical Association: Senior Drivers
- Dept. of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- FHWA: Safety for Older Road Users
- Help guide Online
- National Center for Senior Transportation
- NHTSA: Older Driver Resources
- Quiz: Drivers over 55: Self Assessment
- Quiz: Safe Driver Checklist
- Quiz: Smart Driver Road Rules Quiz
- Quiz: Trail Making Cognitive Test
- Quiz: Vision Degeneration Test
- Quiz: What my Crash Risk?
- Senior Drivers Resource Center
- Seniors for Safe Driving
- U. of Michcigan – Driving Decision Workbook
- When to turn over the keys – DMV