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Safety Tips for Older Drivers

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Posted on August 5, 2013

Aging can have an impact on many daily activities, including driving. Statistics have proven that senior citizens are more likely to be involved in minor car accidents than young or middle-aged adults. Additionally, the fatal car crash probability rate rises dramatically once drivers reach age 70.

While there are typically exceptions to most rules, medical science has taught us that factors associated with aging, such as reduced motor reflexes, coordination, and reaction time are common among older drivers but can adversely impact one’s ability to maintain control of a car.

7 Important DMV Tips for Older Drivers

As a driver ages, steps can be taken to help maintain his/her safety and the safety of other motorists. Being aware of potential conditions that may impact your driving abilities can be a key step in correcting them and enjoying the road safely for years to come.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recommends the seven following tips for older drivers:

  1. Keep physically active – Consistent physical activity has been proven to benefit strength, flexibility, and mental awareness in adults of all ages. Moderate exercise and stretching can help keep important driving actions (like looking over one’s shoulder) easy to execute.
  2. Get screened for vision and hearing – Eyesight and hearing commonly decline with old age. Frequent checkups can help doctors determine any signs of sensory impairment and can also make these issues easier to remedy when detected early on.
  3. Take responsibility of chronic conditions – Long-term ailments, like diabetes or heart problems, can result in trouble behind the wheel if they are not managed appropriately. Follow doctors’ instructions diligently and abide by the warnings on medication labels. Don’t drive after taking any new medication until you become familiar with its effects on your body.
  4. Plan to drive in favorable conditions – If possible, older drivers should restrict driving to daytime hours. Drivers may also feel more comfortable avoiding high-traffic areas and rush hour traffic. Delay driving plans if foul weather sets in, such as heavy rains or snowfall.
  5. Update your driving knowledge – Many senior-oriented organizations, such as AARP, sponsor community education programs that offer refresher training for the elderly. A senior who first learned to drive 40 or 90 years ago may be surprised by the changes taught in today’s safe driving courses. Example: Decades back, drivers were instructed to pump the brakes when encountering a stopping skid in order to retain steering capability. Today, most vehicles are equipped with Anti-lock brakes. Drivers should apply the brakes with firm, constant pressure and allow the vehicle’s equipment to “pump” them. The ability to steer around danger during hard braking is retained. A driver who still pumps the brakes may inadvertently reduce the car’s ability to stop in time.
  6. Take action to correct deficiencies – Experiencing a physical limitation does not necessarily equate to compromised driving ability. Simple, adaptive devices exist that can assist drivers in turning the steering wheel or applying the brakes. Physical therapists can prescribe devices to aid patients whose arthritis or muscular conditions limit their range of motion. Cars can also be equipped with inexpensive back-up cameras that virtually eliminate blind spots and the need to face rearward while driving in reverse.
  7. Drive defensively – Take note of posted speed limits and other road signs and obey them. Maintain a safe following distance and signal before every turn and lane change to warn other drivers of your intent to change direction. If any feelings of concern set in, drive at a safe speed in the right hand lane and allow other cars to pass. When in doubt, look for a safe place to pull over (parking lot, gas station) and take a break.

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