Most senior drivers dread the day they have to hang up their keys for the last time, as driving is often a key component of independence. That being said, no one wants to be a danger to others so it's important that senior drivers stay safe while they're on the road. Here are some tips to help you drive safely as long as possible:
- Stay active: staying physically active improves your flexibility and strength, making it easier to check your blind spots, turn the steering wheel, and perform other driving tasks.
- Schedule regular hearing and vision tests. Seeing and hearing well are vital to safe driving so make sure you get tested regularly so if you have an issue with your sight or hearing it can be corrected as soon as possible.
- Stay on top of chronic conditions. If you have seizures, diabetes, or another condition that can affect your driving it's important to work with your doctor to manage your condition and stay safe while behind the wheel. Check with your pharmacist to be sure your medications won't affect your driving abilities.
- Know your limitations. If you have a hard time seeing in the dark don't drive at night. If you have arthritis that makes it difficult to steer look for a steering wheel cover that is more comfortable and easier to grip. Sometimes switching to a smaller car makes a world of difference, or you might want a vehicle that has a backup camera for easier parking.
- Know your driving conditions. Make sure you drive during daylight hours, on quieter roads, and in dry weather. Stick to familiar areas, and don't drive while drinking or after using medical marijuana.
- Skip the cell phone. Distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents, so resist answering your phone when you're on the road. If you need to use your GPS you should program the destination before you leave or pull off the road so you can give the device your full attention. The National Safety Council advises against all cell phone use while driving, including Bluetooth and hands-free devices.
- Keep your skills updated. Look for a senior driver refresher course in your area or check with your vehicle insurer for a nearby program. As a bonus, many insurance companies offer a discount if you complete one of these courses.
Above all, know when it's time to quit. As much as we love our independence no one wants to be the cause of an accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the following occurrences may be signs you should consider hanging up the car keys for good:
- Getting lost on a route that is familiar.
- Receiving a ticket for a driving violation.
- Experiencing a recent crash or near-miss.
- Being advised by your doctor to limit or stop driving.
- Taking medication that might affect safe driving.
- Driving too slowly or speeding for no reason.
Remember, just because you shouldn't drive anymore doesn't mean you have to be housebound. There are many transportation options seniors can take advantage of to enjoy many more years of travel and independence!