Seniors & Driving: Keep in Check

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As we age, some of our perceptions may start to weaken or fail us. When it comes to seniors driving, this can be a scary and dangerous moment because not only are we putting ourselves in danger, we can cause others to be hurt as well; since old age and driving do not always go hand in hand. Keeping your health in check is a great start. Some Government agencies such as the FHA and the NHTSA may recommend adults over 70 to receive an annual check-up to keep your mind sharp and your vision clear as you slide into the driver’s seat. The FHA does offer specific programs for older adults, such as putting safety programs in place to assist seniors with driving awareness as they age and become more observant on the highways. There are also some vehicles redesigned with adaptations to meet the needs of the older population. Below are some tips to keep seniors safe on the road.

Have your Vision/Hearing checked Periodically

Eyesight can drastically change as we get older. Having your eyes checked and prescription lenses up to date or current will keep you safer as you drive. Once in the car, seniors should also make sure they use the defrost when there is fog approaching and change out their wipers if they begin to lose their purpose on the windshield. Seniors should also keep all mirrors inside and out clean from debris. Seniors may have good eyesight yet may still need a little help hearing sounds. Having your hearing checked can also be beneficial when driving. Especially if someone is approaching too close and they are in your blind spot. The car horn is there to inform you of what is coming your way. Hearing aids may be useful and recommended to assist you better as you drive.

Manage your Medications Properly

Many prescription drugs, such as pain medications or cold/flu treatments, may cause sleepiness and impair your senses while driving. Sometimes the person may not even be unaware of the impairment before its too late. It is wise to stay off the road if your medications cause dizziness or make you sleepy when you are driving. One last thing: have a backup plan, that is, avoid driving in the car alone. Having someone to talk to can help you focus and be more alert.

Know Your Limitations

As we age, both our physical and mental abilities while driving can test us. Being in check is a priority when behind the wheel. For the physically-handicapped, some cars provide adaptations to help seniors increase their driving abilities. These adaptations may include adding a car ramp on the vehicle or a button on the dashboard to start the ignition. Some seniors prefer the gear shift to be up near the steering wheel for easier access, instead of between the two front seats. There are also safety features that help you avoid collisions and steering wheel covers that help seniors grip the wheel better. Seniors should also be aware of alternative routes if there happens to be an accident or road closure ahead, so panic does not set in. Most newer vehicles offer a GPS already installed; however, if your car is an older model, it is wise to have another plan to know how to get to your destination.

Increasing Your Driving Skills

Some caregivers or loved ones of older adults may feel more at ease with seniors driving and believe elderly driving is acceptable if seniors go through a defensive driving program. Not only would it be educational to take, most courses are free to older adults over 55 and also can be fun! In some states, taking a defensive driving class will lower your auto insurance rates while giving seniors a load of confidence.

When should Older Adults stop Driving?

If seniors do feel that they are not prepared to continue driving for any reason, there are plenty of options to get around town while still keeping their independence. In the city limits, buses may provide the transportation they are seeking. Carpooling with other senior adults or family members may also be beneficial. Or, call a ride with Uber or Lyft; these are two of the newest transportation options for seniors to use while getting around town.


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