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Safe Driving After The Age of 60

Driving is an important part of daily life for many seniors over the age of 60 – one that often represents their independence, and their freedom to go where they want without the assistance of someone else.

Regardless of how much pride a senior may take in their safe driving record, individuals over 60 need to recognize that experiencing changes in their driving ability is inevitable, and that the way they approach these changes is what will determine their future as a driver.

How The Effects of Aging Can Affect Driving AbilityHolding the wheel with both hands

  • Poor eyesight: It’s well known that vision tends to decline with age, which means that every drop in visual acuity and sharpness affects your ability to identify road signs and to drive safely from one destination to another.
  • Decline in hearing: If a driver’s ability to hear the honking of horns is impaired, this could present a potential hazard out on the roads. The same goes for the many other auditory cues that drivers need to sense, and that often disadvantage elderly drivers whose hearing is impaired.
  • Motor skills: It’s only natural for an aging body to experience aching joints and stiff muscles. As these symptoms accumulate, though, it could potentially spell danger for elderly drivers whose range of comfortable motion has been reduced too much. For instance, neck pain or stiffness is a rather common symptom for older adults to experience, and it’s one that can inhibit a senior’s ability to look over their shoulder to check for oncoming traffic when changing lanes.
  • Slower reflexes: Often related to a general decline in one’s motor skills, slower reaction times can mean that elderly drivers can’t react fast enough in an emergency situation on the road – say, if a vehicle is emerging rapidly from a driveway or side street, not looking for oncoming traffic.
  • Cognitive impairment: Is your elderly loved one struggling to remember what certain road signs or markings mean? Are they forgetting the steps involved in safe driving? If so, it could be a sign that memory loss or general cognitive impairment is making driving an untenable option for them.

Key Tips & Precautions for Senior Drivers

Old age and driving are not necessarily incompatible, as there are many tips that can help seniors counteract some of the changes associated with aging that affect driving ability.

Avoid cell phone use: Seniors need to be particularly careful to avoid the activities that contribute heavily to automobile accidents among other drivers – and using a cell phone is at the top of that list.

Getting enough sleep: Ensuring that you receive the proper amount of sleep each night can be crucial to making you a safe driver during the daytime. Senior drivers are especially susceptible to experiencing drowsiness out on the road, so taking proper precaution to maintain a full, regular sleep schedule is key for drivers over the age of 60.

Choose the right car: It’s important that seniors find the right vehicle with any necessary aids they might need for safe all-around driving. Most likely, this would refer to a vehicle that at least has power brakes as well as power steering – not to mention automatic transmission.

Vehicle upkeep: To improve visibility from inside your car, always ensure your mirrors and windshield are clean, and that your headlights are functioning properly. Also, remember to visit a mechanic for your car’s scheduled maintenance.

Safe driving courses: It may be helpful to take a safe driving course, which are often offered through the American Automobile Association or the AARP. In fact, your insurance policy may even offer a discount for those looking to take such courses.

Drive slower at nighttime: When it gets dark outside, drivers who are over the age of 60 would be wise to take extra precaution when navigating the roadways. This can help compensate for the fact that as we get older, our pupils don’t dilate as quickly in the dark.

Talk with friends and family: While it may be hard to hear how those closest to you feel about your driving, it’s important for seniors to listen to the concerns held by friends and family. By doing so, they can at least take a hard look at their driving ability, and how their actions are affecting those dearest to them.

Effective Eye Care for Safe Elderly Driving

Of course, a key factor in safe elderly driving has to do with one’s eyesight. For this reason, it’s vital that those over the age of 60 receive eye exams on an annual basis, as is recommended by the American Optometric Association.

Ultimately, wearing the right eyewear – and having the right prescription from your eye doctor – can make a huge difference in your ability to remain a safe driver for years to come.