Safe Driving Practices For Older Drivers

As you age, things are bound to change. However, that does not necessarily have to affect your freedom to drive.

Many older drivers are able to transition their driving habits and remain behind the steering wheel for many more years. The key is to accommodate any age-related changes you might notice and continue driving safely.

Read on for some of the best tips on traffic safety for older drivers and how to continue driving safely as you age.

1. Adjust Everything

One of the most important considerations for operating a car for older adults is necessary adjustments. Age might affect people’s physical driving abilities, including reaching for steering wheels or brake pedals.

To combat this and maintain driver safety, adjust all aspects of your vehicle before heading out. Ensure you can easily reach the brake pedal and other foot pedals from the driver’s seat and angle the steering wheel comfortably.

By ensuring the moving parts of the car interior are properly adjusted, you can avoid straining yourself. Plus, the ride will be that much more comfortable!

2. Avoid Long Journeys

Long car journeys are hard on anyone, but aging drivers and passengers alike might find them particularly tedious. An important aspect of driving safety is staying alert and focused on the road, and hours in a vehicle impact that.

Try not to drive for more than two or three hours in one stretch. Otherwise, consider asking family members to travel with you so that you are not the only driver in the car. Everyone needs someone to step in and help with driving sometimes!

3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Driver safety is dependent on your focus when in a car, so make sure your eyes are on the road and limit distractions. Being aware of the roadway helps you to remain safe around other drivers.

Always maintain a safe distance between your car and the vehicles around you, and avoid any reckless driving such as weaving in and out of traffic.

4. Buckle Up

Wearing your seatbelt is absolutely essential for drivers and passengers of any age or driving ability, including older adults. Safe driving begins when you buckle up!

Ensure that you secure the belt correctly, with the shoulder band across your chest and the waist portion fitted snugly against your hips.

5. Consider Other Transportation Options

If you are not sure that driving is the best decision for you on a particular day, consider other transportation options before sliding behind the wheel.

Public transportation, friends and family, and even taxis or Ubers are all great options for getting where you need to go without putting undue strain on yourself by driving there.

If you do choose to use public transport, ensure that you have planned out your route back home, as well. You don’t want to get stuck halfway back to the comfort of your living room, should the busses not run as late as you thought!

6. Dodge Impaired Driving

Impairment behind the wheel happens not only when you have a drink but also when taking medications. And as you get older, medical conditions are likely to occur that require the intervention of such prescription medications.

However, these can sometimes have a drowsy effect on those who take them, depending on the drug compound. As such, reaction times can be significantly decreased while driving, meaning that your ability as a driver is impacted.

Always consult your doctor about new medications and operating vehicles, and keep your health foremost.

7. Don’t Drive In Bad Weather

Inclement weather is a hazard for every driver, regardless of age. When a storm hits while driving, it heightens the risk of losing control of your vehicle and subsequent accidents.

And for any older drivers who struggle with eyesight issues or have corrective lenses, bad weather can be especially dangerous. Keep yourself safe and try to stick to driving only during good weather.

8. Drive During the Day

Like driving in storms, driving at night can be problematic for aging drivers. Not only do eyesight concerns come into play, but driver fatigue is also a possibility.

While driving exclusively during daylight hours might not be possible, try to restrict your night trips as much as possible for better driver safety.

9. Drive The Right Car 

For older drivers, some cars are better than other vehicles, and having the right car can make the difference between continuing to drive safely or retiring their keys.

Your vehicle should be completely safe, with all tires, wipers, lights, and indicators working flawlessly. And on top of that, ensure the car gets regular maintenance checkups, including brakes, oil, coolant, and even windscreen fluids.

If possible, driving a car with correct adaptive devices is recommended for older drivers. These devices can include forward collision warning, parking assist, and automatic crash notifications—all handy for enhancing the ease of driving.

10. Get A Consult 

If you are worried about your driving abilities, it’s important to consult with a professional. Various people can discuss your worries with you and offer tips for older drivers. Examples of professionals can include the following:

    • American Occupational Therapy Association Consultant
    • Driving Rehabilitation Specialist
    • Occupational Therapist

11. Keep Physically Active

Because some drivers find their abilities somewhat diminished with aging, it’s important to remain as physically active as possible throughout to avoid possible physical limitations, such as trouble shoulder checking.

Of course, check with all relevant health professionals before taking on a physical fitness regime or pursuing significant physical changes.

12. Know Your Limits 

Similarly, knowing your limits when driving is essential to keeping the roadways safe.

All drivers should know the warning signs of when they should stop driving. For example, if you feel tired or stressed and it impacts your ability to drive safely, it’s time to head home. 

13. Monitor Your Health

Aging gracefully includes taking care of yourself, which means monitoring your health. Regular checkups, vision and hearing tests, and physical exams are all important parts of keeping you safe and ensuring you are physically and mentally capable of driving.

14. Prevent Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of collisions and transportation accidents. And older drivers are certainly not immune to it either.

In the split second that you glance away from the road to switch the radio station or check your phone, the entire traffic layout in front of you might have changed, and you might not have time to react to it anymore.

Keep your cell phone, coffee, and other distractions well away from you when behind the wheel. Avoid changing climate settings inside the car or changing music when the car is in motion.

Additionally, try not to let passengers become distracting to you, either. Holding a conversation can be done safely, but make sure that your attention is firmly on the road in front of you.

15. Refresh Your Driving Skills 

If you are worried about your driving skills and think a refresher course might help you as an older driver, there are plenty of options and resources.

From comprehensive driving evaluations to educational programs, taking a defensive driving course, to reading up on national highway traffic safety, older drivers have many choices for how they want to go about refreshing their skills.

For anyone considering a refresher course or simply pursuing additional driving ability or driving safety tips, look for organizations that empower drivers with education.

Great places for those seeking assistance include the National Institute of Aging’s educational program selection or a local CarFit event, where a variety of professionals can offer advice based on your needs.

16. Turn Down The Volume

It might help you better concentrate on the road if you turn down the volume levels on any media while driving. This includes CDs, music playlists, radio stations, and even audiobooks.

Your senses are already concentrating heavily on keeping you safe on the road, and adding an extra auditory level can be straining, especially for those with impaired hearing and whose hearing aids might be adversely affected by volume.

17. You & Car Insurance

For all drivers, regardless of years behind the wheel, car insurance is one of the best things you can invest in. Not only does insurance protect you in case of an accident, but it may also cover car repairs, roadside assistance, and other unforeseen incidents.

Get a comprehensive driving evaluation today and see what kind of car insurance is right for you when it comes to you and your driving needs!