Freedom is wired into Americans’ DNA. Living and driving independently allows people to come and go as they please and provides a feeling of freedom and life without limits. Many people enjoy driving and its subsequent emotional and practical benefits, including seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were over 33 million licensed senior drivers (drivers ages 65 and older) in 2009. That figure represents an increase of 23 percent since 1999.
However, there are certain dangers embodied in driving as you age. According to the Harvard Medical School, as people age, they begin to lose concentration and quickness in their reflexes. If you’re one of the 33 million senior drivers, there are safety steps you can take to counter these natural losses.
Common-Sense Safety Tips for Senior Drivers
Wear your seat belt at all times when the car is moving, and make sure you’re wearing it properly. Refrain from reading the newspaper, texting, or applying makeup while you’re behind the wheel. Tell that to the young drivers, right?
While you know better, you have to make allowances for reckless drivers. The CDC offers the tips below for senior drivers, but they apply to everyone. They’re all tactics of defensive driving that increase your odds of arriving at your destination safely.
- Limit your driving to optimum driving conditions. Plan ahead so you won’t have to drive at night or during inclement weather. If a storm is forecast, stock your refrigerator and pantry ahead of time so you don’t have to make a trip to the store in inclement weather.
- Avoid driving while impaired.The CDC reports that only 5 percent of senior drivers involved in fatal accidents have a blood alcohol level greater than .08 percent, with 25 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 reaching or exceeding that threshold in a fatal accident. Impairment, however, covers other conditions, such as drug interactions and side effects, fatigue, illness, or distress.
- Know where you’re going. Plan your routes, and avoid questionable areas. If you are driving into unfamiliar territory, map your route ahead of time, and/or use the car’s GPS to guide you.
- Avoid distractions. Refrain from eating, smoking, changing the radio station, and talking on the phone while driving.
- Leave yourself an out. Even if you’re a good driver, you share the road with others who may not be in the best shape to be on the road. One of the tenets of defensive driving is to leave yourself an out. For example, if a driver is driving erratically, you should already know how you’re going to lose that car.
- Get your eyes checked to ensure you are wearing the correct lenses for driving.
- Ask for help. Get a family member, friend, or neighbor to drive you if you have to go somewhere and you aren’t up to driving.
Exercising extra caution helps to keep elderly drivers safe behind the wheel and ensure the freedom to drive for as long as possible. Defensive driving is a small price to pay for your freedom.