Driving is a valuable freedom. For seniors who lose freedoms as they age, driving is often a major freedom they want to keep. To ensure your driving skills are near as sharp as they were in your 20s, read these safe driving tips for seniors.
Don’t Ignore Your Limitations
Be realistic about how aging affects your body, and how these changes can impede responsible driving. Reaction time decreases with age, and though exercising can slow its decline, you should drive differently to compensate for your slower reactions. Decreasing your speed and proceeding through a stop sign or light slowly are two good ways to do this. Additionally, getting adequate sleep helps quicken your response time.
Some limitations are due to medical conditions and the medications associated with them. Dementia drastically impacts driving ability, but vision loss is a more expected deficiency that impairs driving. Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration all affect vision. You can often address cataracts and glaucoma through surgery, but macular degeneration has no easy cure. Communicate with your doctor about eye testing. As a loose rule, though, aim to get your eyes checked every one to three years. While driving, be sensitive to your eyes’ ability—if you notice that your vision worsens some and your doctor clears you to drive, you may want to only drive in the day or use corrective lenses.
Another driving tip for seniors is to drive defensively. There are many practices under the defensive driving umbrella, but they’re especially important for seniors to learn because seniors are more susceptible to grave harm in a collision. Also, if you choose to drive at lower speeds to improve reaction time and maintain control of your car, you will need to learn how to evade other drivers that attempt to pass you. One helpful tip is to slow down when someone passes you on a two-lane road. This gives the person passing you more time to safely pass without risking a collision with oncoming traffic.
Be Extra Careful in Bad Weather
Bad weather is dangerous for drivers of all skills, but seniors should take special precautions when inclement weather threatens. First, try not to drive if you can help it. If you must, use proper safe driving practices, such as accelerating and turning very gradually. Seniors should also be mindful about what they’ll do if they’re stuck on the road. Pack warm clothes, blankets, water, nonperishable food, and other supplies that may help you in an emergency. If you can, bring necessary medications with you for every drive—especially on potentially hazardous drives in bad weather.