It’s a fact we all have to face – our ability to drive an automobile changes as we age. Older drivers are more likely to receive traffic violations and be involved in an accident. But what the facts don’t mention is that we all age differently, and proactively taking steps that support safe driving habits and your health can keep you on the road throughout your golden years.
Tip #1: Take Charge of Your Health
As we age, we can experience decreased vision, impaired hearing, and slower motor reflexes. You might also be facing health challenges that decrease your mobility and ability to detect vehicles in your blind spots.
Be proactive about your health. Schedule regular visits with your doctor and talk to them about your driving ability. Make sure your eyes and hearing is checked annually, and don’t be afraid to include exercise in your daily routine to ensure that you’re able to comfortably move and look around your blind spots when driving.
Tip #2: Ditch the Old Junker
Many senior drivers keep older model vehicles because they hold sentimental value and have low mileage. While that might be great for your budget, it increases your chances of being in an accident because newer vehicles have more safety features that can prevent a mishap. From back-up cameras to self-parking systems, a newer model cars also have more sophisticated airbag and safety features that could protect you and those you love in case of an accident.
Tip #3: Be a Life-Long Learner
There are many free resources for older drivers that allow them to sharpen driving skills while engaging with other senior drivers and training professionals. Check out these links:
Free 20 Minute On-line Defensive Driving Course from the CA Department of General Services: http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/OTR/ORIM-DDT/PLAYER.HTML
AARP Senior Driving Training Courses: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/driver_safety/?cmp=RDRCT-DRIVERSAFETY
NHTSA “Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully” website: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/olddrive/driving%20Safely%20Aging%20Web/page7.html
Tip #4: Know Your Limits
Don’t do what makes you feel uncomfortable. Have open conversations with your doctor and your family about your desire and ability to continue driving. This self-evaluation tool from AAA is also a good place to start if you’re questioning your ability to drive: http://seniordriving.aaa.com/sites/default/files/Driver652.pdf
By the year 2030, one of every five drivers in America will be 65 years of age or older (source AAA.) Maintaining the freedom to travel by car will continue to be an important factor in maintaining personal independence necessary to get the most out of our golden years.