As life expectancy increases, more and more seniors find themselves needing to stay on the road for as long as possible. Sticking to driving provides seniors with a sense of security and independence, especially when they live alone or have no caregivers. However, adverse changes in overall health may trigger a series of challenges for seniors behind the wheel, with visual impairment and hearing loss accounting for an elevated risk of car crashes among senior drivers. To keep seniors safe on the road, discover our compiled list of 10 tips for safe driving for seniors.
Driving vs. Old Age: 10 Safe Driving Tips To Keep Seniors Safe From Surprises On The Road
10 Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
Education is Key!
Whatever you do, equipping yourself with knowledge is crucial. That’s why educating your seniors about safe driving is the first step to ensuring they continue to drive safely and independently on the road.
The need for safe driving programs and courses has increased exponentially in recent years. You can access abundant resources for safe driving online. To get started, download the guidelines of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to have a better understanding of critical conditions affecting a person’s driving ability. Don’t forget to check out other sources like the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) which have loads of informative resources and tips about promoting safe driving in older adults.
Enroll in Safe Driving Courses
Even if your seniors may have been behind the wheel their entire lives, inevitable physical and mental health declines can alter their driving skills greatly. For example, vision issues like peripheral vision loss may take them by surprise when another car emerges from the other side or an alley; meanwhile, slower bodily reflexes may prevent them from pulling the brake on time, leading to unfavorable accidents or even worse.
Signing up for safe driving lessons is the extra step to better accommodate your seniors, giving them more chances to brush up on their driving skills, adjust to significant health changes, and earn extra discounts for auto insurance. Enroll in safe driving courses and defensive driving lessons. For example, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) developed the first and largest driving course in the U.S. for seniors aged 50 and up, called the AARP Smart Driver course. Other courses to consider include AAA Roadwise Driver and Mature Driver Improvement Program.
In addition to safe driving courses, seniors may take several quizzes to assess their qualifications associated with driving, such as driving skills, physical fitness, reaction time, etc. Check out here for AAA’s Self-Rating Tool and NHTSA’s Driving Safely Self-Assessment.
Monitor Health Regularly
With age-related health conditions preventing many seniors from taking the wheels in the best condition, it is essential to stay on top of your seniors’ health to keep them and others safe on the open road. Conducting regular check-ups and monitors is a must, ensuring they are competent and comfortable driving for as long as possible.
As hearing and vision are two prerequisites for safe driving, having annual check-ups and necessary tests are highly recommended to make sure their essential senses are functioning properly. It helps detect early signs of vision and hearing impairments and gives enough time to intervene in complications and potential consequences. Make sure their corrective lenses are updated, and remind them always to wear hearing aids while driving.
Monitoring your seniors’ health regularly also means being mindful of their medications. Some drugs and supplements can’t be taken together because unexpected side effects can be dangerous for senior drivers, such as drowsiness, nausea, or lightheadedness. Advise your parents to hold off driving for 1 or 2 days to see how the new prescription goes. If they experience persistent symptoms, consult their doctors for dosage assessment.
Touch Base with Doctors
No one understands a senior’s overall wellness and well-being better than a doctor. In many cases, doctors and healthcare providers are reliable resources to evaluate a senior’s overall health and determine whether they may be fit or unfit to grab the wheel. Talking to a doctor is particularly helpful for a few health conditions that take longer to diagnose, such as cognitive and sensory issues. Based on regular assessment, doctors can provide an early warning, letting seniors know that it may be about time to get off the road or offer much-needed medications to help them maintain their driving fitness. It also provides seniors and their caregivers with plenty of time to plan the best actions and make necessary modifications to ensure safe driving for seniors.
Limit Driving Distractions
Distracted driving accounts for up to 3,000 deaths on the road per year. With many external stimuli deterring a person from keeping their eyes on the road, limiting or avoiding distractions is one of many driving safety tips seniors should adhere to. Multitasking is a good skill to have, but not while driving. Some tips to limit distractions include modifying the seat and mirrors before driving, turning off the phone or setting “do not disturb” mode, avoiding eating while driving, resisting the urges to pick up objects on the car floor, and adjusting the radio volume, especially if your parents are using hearing aids. When unavoidable, remind them that it’s safer to pull off to pick up the phone.
Plan The Journey
Not all paths are meant to be taken! Sometimes, it may not be necessary. Remember that although your parents are familiar with driving their entire lives, dealing with unfamiliar areas, high-traffic roads, interstate highways, and routes packed with tricky turns and roundabouts can be a panicking experience. Before departing to new places or destinations, help your parents work out the routes in advance by mapping out a route with less traffic and fewer left turns. Be sure to choose an easy route they can drive confidently if they need to drive there several times a week. Timing is another critical factor to keep in mind when planning journeys for your seniors, as avoiding the busiest hours could add so much to your parents’ safety and comfort when they are behind the wheel.
Avoid Extreme Weather
It may not be worth taking a risk to drive in extreme weather. Inclement weather like heavy rain, hail storms, or thick fog can adversely affect your seniors’ visibility when operating on the road, increasing their chances of being dragged into traffic incidents. While several precautions can be used to ensure the safest trip possible, such as driving slowly and using headlights, it is always best to be patient and wait until the weather gets better. They can get back to the road once the rain has stopped or the fog has lifted. Practice running errands or accomplishing daily tasks during the daylight. Remind your parents to avoid driving under such circumstances at all costs, no matter how urgent the situation may be.
Shop for A New Car
Sometimes, the best way to stay safe on the open road is to get a new car, even if your parents insist their current cars still work fine. In recent years, vehicles have been armored with many modern features, promoting a top level of safety for drivers and passengers and reducing the possibility and severity of car crashes. When it comes to car shopping, be sure to look for automatic crash notifications, backup cameras, parking assistance tools, forward collision warnings, navigation, and self-parking assistance tools.
Get Plenty of Sleep
As seniors age, they often sleep less due to inevitable disruptions in their circadian rhythm. In the long term, inadequate sleep can deteriorate their functional abilities and alertness, making it more challenging to focus and respond quickly to their surroundings. While the issue can be solved by simply getting enough sleep or avoiding driving the next day, seek help from doctors or sleep specialists if your parents’ sleep deprivation persists and interferes with their daily routines.
Maintain Fitness Levels
In addition to frequent health monitors, engaging in physical activities is another valuable tip to practice safe driving for seniors, assisting them in minimizing mobility loss and preserving their driving abilities. It doesn’t have to be strenuous workouts or sweating out on the treadmill. It could be as simple and easy as going for a walk, cycling, or any form of exercise that they enjoy. By maintaining fitness levels in tip-top conditions, seniors can respond quickly in various driving situations, such as rotating their torso while parking or turning their heads around for possible traffic hazards.
If you have questions about tips for safe driving for seniors or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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