A Few Do's and Don'ts: Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
Since December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, we thought it’s a good time to address safe driving tips for seniors.
After all, there are 45 million drivers over the age of 65 in the U.S. according to the CDC. And the older you are, the greater your chances of being injured or worse in an accident.
We're not pointing this out to scare you, but to better prepare you for driving in your older years.
When one person drives safely with focus, it makes it that much safer on the road for the rest of us.
Thankfully, safe driving is a pretty straightforward practice that takes a little bit of awareness planning.
Here are some guidelines on how the senior in your life can drive safer and avoid getting into accidents well before hitting the road.
The Do’s of senior driving:
Before you even start driving…..
Schedule regular vision and hearing tests
We all know that vision and hearing can decline with age, and that being able to see well is imperative to driving safely. Those with a vision impairment or cognitive impairment were at a greater risk of car crashes according to a Pub Med study.
An annual eye exam can ensure your prescription is up to date, and that if you have glasses, they’re the right kind. Regular exams also help to detect any health problems to do with your eyes and prevent serious issues from developing.
Buckle up and get situated
You don’t want to be changing the station or putting on your seatbelt while the car is in motion. The more focused you are on the road, the better.
Is it cold out? Crank up that front and rear defroster and make sure you can see clearly out of both views before putting the car in drive. If your windshield has a layer of frost, make sure to scrape all of it off so that you can see out of every window.
If it’s hot out, turn on the AC and take off your jacket if you have one on. You want to be as comfortable as possible behind the wheel.
- Talk to your doctor about any health concerns you have when it comes to driving.
- Plan your route before getting into the car.
- Plan to drive when there’s less traffic and the roads are clear of snow and rain.
- Drive defensively- keep an eye on the car in front of you and never assume what another driver is about to do.
- Avoid driving on the freeway if it makes you uncomfortable.
The Don’ts of senior driving…
Don’t look at your phone while behind the wheel, unless you're in park!
This one’s obvious but it still happens all too often.
You hear a ding and you just can’t wait to see what your friend said about meeting for lunch. It’s best you leave that unread, since over 1.5 million crashes a year happen because someone was texting while driving according to the National Safety Council.
Don’t even glance at your phone unless you're looking at GPS. Just don’t do it.
Avoid driving at night
It’s harder to see in the dark, and several factors make driving at night more dangerous. In fact, you’re 3 times more likely to get into a fatal accident at night according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There’s the glare from oncoming traffic, lower visibility and general drowsiness. Peripheral vision isn’t as clear at night and your eyes take longer to adjust.
- Don’t break the rules of the road- turning right on a red light if the sign says you can’t puts you at unnecessary risk.
- Don’t drive with breaks if you’re driving long distances. And a long distance is subjective…
- Don’t get distracted by bad drivers. This can be hard to practice, but it doesn’t help to get upset or shoot an angry look to the driver next to you.
Other options than driving yourself
I think it’s also important to acknowledge that at a certain point, driving may not be safe for seniors.
Signs it’s time to stop driving:
- If stiffness and pain gets in the way of being able to react as a driver.
- If your medication significantly affects your driving ability.
- If the person has been ticketed recently, even for minor offenses.
- Feeling lost on what should be a familiar route .
Consider other forms of transportation: Of course, taking the bus, a light rail or other forms of public transportation are an option and can save money in the long run. If you can, do a few test runs with your loved one so that they feel confident in their route and how to pay for tickets and such.
Walking could also be a great alternative if your senior lives in a safe neighborhood that’s central to grocery stores, cafes and other places they might frequent. In case you need reminding, we recently covered the many mental and physical benefits of regular walking for seniors and their caregivers.
Make a plan for the family to drive your loved one: This may or may not be possible based on where you live and everyone’s commitments.
Hire a caregiver: Help with errands, taking seniors to their appointments and social engagements and grocery shopping are a few of the many tasks that caregivers can assist seniors with.
If you’re worried about the mobility and safety of your loved one, hiring a caregiver can give you peace of mind. See what else our caregivers do here.
Megan Marolf writes about senior topics and outdoor recreation from her home base in Seattle. You can read more about her here.
If you or a loved one you know are looking for additional support during this time and are interested in scheduling a free in-home assessment, please contact SeaCare In-Home Care Services today! A SeaCare family member is standing by. 425-559-4339.