From the time we’re very young, we equate driving with freedom and independence.
When you’re behind the wheel, you can go anywhere and do anything. Even if you usually just run errands in your neighborhood, it’s still nice to know you could ride off into the sunset if you so choose.
That’s why it can be so difficult to get older and face the fact that you may not be as agile on the road as you used to be. But simply ignoring your changing abilities can be a serious danger to you and others you share the road with.
That’s why it’s important to put some measures into place to ensure you remain safe on the roads. Starting with regularly… and honestly… monitoring your health.
5 tips to assure you’re a safe senior driver on the road
It may not seem like driving is a physically demanding activity. But when you stop and think about it we rely on our bodies being fit every time we drive. You rely on your hearing and sight, of course. But you also put the muscle in your arms and legs through their paces whenever you’re behind the wheel.
Since it’s very common as we get older to have changes in hearing, vision and muscle function, it’s important that you keep a close eye on how each of these systems is performing if you’re still driving. Something as simple as a stiff neck, por ejemplo, could seriously impair your ability to change lanes or spot an approaching pedestrian.
Following are 5 tips that can help keep you safely on the road for years to come:
- Get annual vision and hearing tests.
- Always make sure you’re using glasses or contact lenses that have your most recent prescription.
- If you use hearing aids never get behind the wheel without them.
- Don’t drive if you have any muscle stiffness or soreness.
- Go to the doctor as soon as you notice any change in your health that could impact your ability to drive safely.
Regularly monitoring your health can help you stay ahead of any issues that pop up so that you can remain safely on the road for years to come.
A mature driver needs (and deserves) a “mature” car
Just as you should be in tip-top shape for driving, so should your vehicle. Not only is it necessary to get twice annual tune-ups (even if you think nothing is wrong with your car), you should also consider trading in your vehicle if it doesn’t have these features:
- Automatic transmission
- Power steering
- Anti-lock brakes
- 4-wheel drive
- Compact size for easy maneuvering and parking
You can even get your current car fitted with modifications that make driving a bit easier as you age. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists recommends solutions like swivel seats that help you get in and out of the car more easily, mirror extensions, pedal extensions and more.
You’ve earned a “mature” car that works FOR you, so you can continue to drive comfortable and safely for years to come.
Changing your routine can keep your driving longer
You know yourself better than anyone else, so it’s up to you to be aware of your limits. While you might have been an excellent driver under any condition when you were younger, it’s possible that night driving or highways are more difficult for you now. There’s certainly no shame in that!
If that’s the case, instead of pushing yourself to do what you once did, simply make alterations to your routines to safely accommodate your changing abilities. It will keep you and others safe and in the long run will help you continue to stay independent as you and your loved one will be confident in your ability to continue to drive.
6 common senior driving errors
Small changes can sometimes be hard to spot, but an easy way to stay ahead of shifts in our driving abilities is to make it a habit to do a simple skills assessment each time you’re on the road.
Ask yourself if you’re making any of the following 6 common senior driving errors:
- Driving far above or below the speed limit
- Failing to check blind spots before changing lanes
- Sudden breaking without cause
- Veering into neighboring lanes
- Failing to yield to another driver’s right of way
- Bumping into other cars while parking
If you find that you’re making one or more of these common errors don’t panic. Now that you’re aware that you are you can focus on avoiding them.
But just as importantly you can also work with your doctor to address the issues that may be causing them in the first place. For example, maybe you’re bumping into cars while parking because your eyeglass prescription needs to be updated.
Stay open to advice to stay on the road
It’s not easy, we get it. You were the authority on driving when you taught your children how to be safe behind the wheel, so it can be tough to take advice on the subject from them now.
But just keep in mind that your kids, friends and other family members care about you and have your best interests at heart. So if one of them is expressing concern about your driving abilities, it’s because they love you and don’t want to see you get hurt.
Instead of ignoring them or becoming defensive take a deep breath and try to listen to what they have to say. When you’ve heard what they have to say ask for their help in overcoming your challenges. Being open minded could help you stay safely on the road for years to come.
Consider alternatives to driving yourself
Admitting that it’s time to hand in your car keys (or considerably scaling back your driving) isn’t easy. But the good news is that it doesn’t mean you’ll be house-bound. Today, more than ever there are many convenient ways to get around town without driving.
You might even find, much to your surprise, that you enjoy not having the responsibility that comes with driving and finding parking. Many folks use the extra time they now have to read, knit or even simply just socialize.
Following are a few ways you can get out and about without driving yourself:
Look into senior shuttle services in your area that range from cheap or free services that merely pick you up and drop you off to private companies that send someone to accompany you and assist you on errands like shopping or doctor’s appointments.
Use rideshare services like Uber or Lyft to get door-to-door rides wherever you’re going. They can be cheaper than taxis and offer the ease of automatic debit payments so you don’t even need to worry about cash.
If you live in a city or town that has an efficient public transit system, why not take advantage of it? Instead of worrying about driving, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery or a great book.
Walk or Cycle:
Whenever your destination is within reasonable walking or cycling distance, consider using the opportunity to get a little exercise. It’s good for your health and it’s absolutely free!
Friends & Family:
If you can coordinate your outings with the schedules of friends and family members, you’ll probably find that they’re more than happy to give you a lift if it means helping to keep you safe. Plus you get the bonus of spending a little extra time with a loved one.
Growing older is a challenge AND a blessing
Growing old is a blessing and a privilege that many folks don’t get to enjoy, but it does come with certain challenges. One of the biggest, undoubtedly, is accepting necessary changes to your lifestyle.
And although it may be upsetting to have to adapt your driving habits to assure you’re a safe senior driver, just remember that nothing is more important than the safety of yourself and others on the road.
He is also a Houston personal injury attorney and the founding member of Zaid Law. By the time he meets his clients, they’ve already been hurt, so he likes to share his experience to help others avoid dangerous situations and injury whenever possible.
For more safety and health tips, visit the Zaid Law blog.