How Seniors Can Stay Safe While Driving

July 29, 2020

Being able to drive is directly related to one’s ability to remain independent. As people get older, though, mental and physical changes can make it more difficult to drive in a safe manner. Natural aging processes can affect one’s hearing, vision, and response times, and these are serious concerns that should be addressed in seniors. Many can continue driving safely, but others should not. Confronting the issues can be difficult, especially for family members.

There are more older drivers now than ever before. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there was a 66 percent increase from 1997 to 2018. Older drivers also keep their licenses longer, and this age group has higher crash rates than middle-aged drivers. Another risk for this age group is the increased likelihood of injuries and fatalities in car wrecks.

No one relishes the thought of having to have a driver’s license taken away, and as long as a senior can drive safely, they should continue to do so. Following safety tips can benefit senior drivers.

What Safety Features in Cars Can Help Seniors?

Modern automobiles have advanced safety features that are quite helpful for older drivers. Newer safety belts and frontal airbags are equipped with load limiters and pretensioners that make them effective for adults of every age. Side airbags that offer torso and head protection can reduce fatalities in some crashes by up to 45 percent for occupants in the front seats who are 70 years old or older. Another nice option is being able to save a driver’s preferences for steering wheel and seat position, so it does not have to be adjusted. Tire pressure monitors are also useful, they alert drivers when pressure has decreased.

Technologies, like blind spot detection, lane departure warnings, and front crash prevention systems, also help prevent accidents. Rear parking sensors and rearview cameras are also very effective for reducing the number of crashes. Drivers over 60 years old have not reported too many problems understanding how these technologies work, but all drivers who have this technology should be instructed on their use.

Small adjustments can help, too. Some steering wheel covers provide a better grip and make driving much more comfortable and easy. Some vehicles also have large and bright dashboards that are easier to read, especially in lower light.

Does My Health Affect My Driving Skills?

People tend to live longer if they take care of themselves and can maintain higher levels of function. A healthy diet and exercise routine will establish a good baseline for safe driving behaviors and can also make it easier to get in and out of a car.

Since seeing clearly is so important for driving, seniors should also have their vision checked regularly and keep a pair of sunglasses in their vehicles. If hearing starts to become an issue, hearing aids could be needed; as a precaution, it is a good idea to keep noise levels low in the car. Keeping the radio turned down is helpful in this respect.

Mobility can also be a concern for aging drivers, but there many options that can help. Physicians and occupational therapists can suggest vehicle modifications that can make driving easier for those with limited mobility. Specially-equipped vans can even provide accommodations for wheelchair-bound individuals to drive safely and effectively.

How Can I Keep My Vehicle Running Properly?

Vehicle upkeep is key to safe driving. Wiper blades should be changed frequently, and mirrors should be kept clean. To see better, drivers can also turn up the lights on the control panel, and switch on the defrost when the windows start to fog up. Regular tune-ups and tire rotations are also important, and the vehicle’s manual should provide the timing for this.

Nowadays, it is easy to plan a route before heading out with a GPS, and many vehicles are equipped with them. If this is not an option, listening to the news for traffic delays and weather conditions is recommended. When the weather is bad, the best advice is to wait out the storm.

Safe Driving Behaviors

Drivers tend to slow down as they get older, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is important to be courteous of other drivers while doing so, however. One way to do this is by staying in the right lane since the other lanes are for passing and faster-moving vehicles.

Following other cars too closely is never recommended since there needs to be enough room to slow down or stop when needed. More distance allows for more time to react to traffic situations. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and other organizations offer defensive driver courses, which can help people brush up on their skills and save money on their auto insurance, in some cases.

Avoiding Distractions

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents, and it is essential to stay focused on the road at all times. Poor health can affect this, and older drivers should ensure that they are feeling okay before getting behind the wheel.

Some medications can impact driving behaviors, so this should be closely monitored. Hand-held electronic devices, including cellphones, should be stashed away; any calls or texts can wait until the car is parked. Eating and drinking while driving is another dangerous behavior that should be avoided. Pets should be secured and arguing with other passengers is never a good idea.

Other senior safe driving tips include the following:

  • Never drive under the influence.
  • Only drive during daylight hours.
  • Choose routes that have less traffic.
  • Avoid listening to audio books while driving.
  • Never drive when tired.
  • Always wear a seat belt.

If there is no choice but to stop driving, seniors can look at alternatives, like rideshare services, riding with friends, and public transit. When family members or friends are concerned that a senior driver is a threat to themselves or other motorists, he or she should be told. If there is a lot of resistance, help may be sought from a physician or other advisor.

Huntsville Car Accident Lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. Provide Legal Representation to Car Accident Victims

Anyone can benefit from safe driving. Unfortunately, car accidents happen to drivers of all ages. If you have been injured in a car accident, we are here to help. Our Huntsville car accident lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. help car accident victims obtain compensation so that they can focus on healing. For a free consultation, call us at 256-539-3110 or complete our online form. Located in Huntsville and Athens, Alabama, we serve clients throughout North Alabama, Madison County, Limestone County, Marshall County, Jackson County, Morgan County, and Lauderdale County.