The Importance of Senior Safety on the Road
Driving can be challenging for anyone but it’s often more challenging for senior adults. Older adults are experienced drivers, many with spotless records, so they often baulk when loved ones express concerns about their driving and safety. The truth is, senior adults aren’t “bad drivers”, but instead are facing aging issues which can affect their driving.
As a part of normal aging, seniors may face issues like hearing loss and limited vision, which can negatively affect driving. In addition, medications and health conditions can impair reaction times, as well as judgement and attention. Some seniors experience weakness, which can lead to a decreased ability to control steering and braking. Other seniors face memory loss which can result in confusion or getting lost. Plus, driving after dark can worsen the effects and intensify safety issues.
Even so, older drivers can maintain their experience and remain safe on the roadways. Staying physically active can help seniors sustain both the strength and flexibility needed for safe driving, as can having regular vision, hearing, and physical examinations.
In addition, keeping vehicles in good condition, by checking brakes, steering wheel, mirrors, and seats and driving during times of optimal visibility can also help. Here’s a list of safety tips for older drivers to help keep you or your loved ones safe.
- Stay Active. Staying active physically enhances your flexibility and strength, making it easier to brake safely, look over your shoulder and avoid blind spots, and turn the steering wheel with ease. It can also improve other common movements required for driving and parking safely. Including physical activity in your day can be as simple as walking or stretching and strength training. If you haven’t been physically active, always consult your physician before beginning a new regimen.
- Handle your chronic conditions. See your doctor regularly and manage your conditions as directed to stay safe while driving. Diabetes, seizures, and other conditions can impact your safety behind the wheel. Your doctor can help you make changes to your treatment plan or limit your driving to ensure you stay safe. Understanding and properly using your medications can help ensure your safety when you are driving. Read all medication instructions to be sure you know the side effects such as drowsiness, sleepiness, and dizziness. You should not drive if you are taking medication that can affect your safety on the road. If you have concerns about any of your medications, contact your physician or pharmacist.
- Have hearing and vision checked regularly. Like your visits to your physician, visits to have your hearing and vision checked regularly can help enhance your driver safety. Impaired hearing can mean a decreased ability to hear approaching vehicles while impaired vision can make it harder to drive at night or in poor weather conditions. Correcting issues as they arise can reduce your risk of accidents and help keep you or your loved one driving safe for years to come.
- Adjust for limitations. If you have limitations which impede your ability to drive safely, it is important to understand those limitations and adjust accordingly. Sometimes vehicle adjustments (seating, steering wheel covers, mirrors, etc.) can help. Your doctor can recommend an occupational therapist who in turn can advise you with possible exercises as well as assistive devices to help. Plus, newer vehicles offer lots of new safety features to help avoid accidents, manage your blind spot, brake, and change lanes.
- Drive when road conditions are best. Another easy adjustment is to only drive when roads and visibility are in good condition. Driving during daylight hours and in clear weather conditions on familiar roads can help you stay safe.
- Don’t under the influence. For drivers of all ages, never drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs – even those which have been prescribed by your physician.
- Focus on driving. In today’s digital age, it is easier than ever to be distracted and end up in an accident. Don’t use your cell phone while driving or allow other distractions to take your focus off the road and other drivers. When you get in your car, make the adjustments needed, such as adjusting the radio station and volume, setting your GPS coordinates, etc., to ensure you safely reach your destination.
- Take a driving refresher course. If you feel you need to upgrade your skills, take a driving refresher course for seniors. You might even get a discount on your insurance if you do.
Driving safety is important for drivers of all ages. For driving concerns or more safety tips for older drivers, contact us at Nursing Plus of Broward, providers of elder care in Fort Lauderdale the surrounding areas, to discover the ways we may be able to help.