Contributed by CarRentals.
Driving is an activity that most of us have been doing for many years – and that we want to continue well into our senior years so we can maintain our independence. But as we age, the realities of getting older become more evident when it comes to our driving skills. Declining eyesight, slower reaction time, and other physical conditions all factor in and force us to make adjustments to our driving habits.
No matter what age you are, here are some basic guidelines for older drivers, including factors that can affect your driving and how to combat them. Also included are tips and resources for safe driving and driving safely for as long as you can.
Aspects That Can Affect Driving
It’s perfectly normal for your driving skills and abilities to change as you get older. And we all age differently, with different factors coming into play for each of us at different times. Here are some of the aspects that can affect your driving:
- Impaired vision
- Impaired hearing
- Slower reaction time
- Physical conditions
- Medical conditions
- Mental and cognitive abilities
Five (5) Exercises to Keep Your Mind Sharp
- Use all of your senses
- Economize your brain use
- Repeat what you want to know
- Make a mnemonic
How to Combat These Aspects
Even though there are aspects that affect how seniors drive, there are things you can do to combat these issues, becoming a better and safer driver:
- Maintain good physical health – This can mean a gym membership or be as simple as implementing your own stretching routine at home.
- Understanding side effects of medication – Work with your doctor and have a clear understanding of how any medications you take can affect your performance behind the wheel.
- Keep your mind alert and sharp – There are things you can do to keep your mind sharp. This includes active learning by doing crosswords or reading and using all your senses whenever you can by trying new tastes or taking a hands-on art class. Use tools such as planners to keep track of important things in your life and use mnemonics to remember lists.
Evaluating Driving Performance
Taking an evaluation that measures your driving performance is another tool that can help you drive more safely. An evaluation can help you determine if there are any factors you need to address if you’re going to continue driving.
There are three different types of driving evaluations available to choose from:
- Driver 65 Plus – This self-assessment has you answering 15 questions that are designed to help you evaluate your own driving performance.
- Professional driving skills evaluation – A licensed driving instructor will evaluate your driving skills, providing you with recommendations for extra training.
- Clinical driving evaluation – A trained Driving Rehabilitation Specialist will evaluate your driving skills in relation to both cognitive and physical abilities.
Audit of Important Driving Skills
- Defensive driving
- Reaction time
- Speed consistency
- Car control
Safe Driving Tips
It’s important to drive safely at any age. But in your older years, it’s more important than ever to follow these tips so you can continue to drive safely:
- Manage your health – Schedule regular vision, hearing, and medical appointments so you stay on top of your health.
- Get enough sleep – Getting plenty of sleep at any age is essential to safe driving. Research shows that only getting between 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night increases crash risk by 4.3x.
- Practice defensive driving – Defensive driving is all about paying attention to the road, leaving enough space between your car and the one in front of you, avoiding distracted driving, and being extra vigilant in intersections.
- Acknowledge your limitations – Recognizing that you have limitations, and acting on them, can help you drive more safely. This can include avoiding night driving or driving in poor weather conditions.
- Plan ahead – As an older driver, you can gain confidence and avoid confusion about where you’re driving by knowing where you’re going ahead of time.
- Be extra cautious when parking – Parking lots are considered high-risk for any driver – there’s a lot going on so pay close attention when backing up.
Tools to Stay on the Road
Being aware of the changes that happen as you age that can affect your driving is the first step towards staying on the road as long as you can. Once you’re aware of these changes, as well as getting a driving evaluation, there are things you can do to be practical about improving and maintaining your driving skills:
- Take online courses such as Drivesharp, Roadwise Driver, and AARP Smart Driver that have been designed to improve driving skills for people of all ages.
- Take a skills audit to see how you react in certain driving conditions.
- Use assistive accessories in your car, such as extensions for pedals and adapted mirrors.
- Use CarFit, a program that helps you evaluate the fit of your car, including ergonomics and safety features.
Alternative Options: Post-Driving
There may come a time when you realize that it’s best to hang up the keys and give up driving. This may be when you’re having too many close calls, feeling stress and anxiety behind the wheel, or find yourself getting lost too often. Some of these issues can be addressed by taking driving courses, but for the bigger concerns it’s time for a discussion with your family about ceasing to drive.
|Driving Skills Evaluation||Clinical Driving Assessment|
|Conducted by: a state-licensed driving instructor||Conducted by: Occupational Therapist Driving Rehabilitation Specialists|
|Cost: $100 to $200||Cost: $200 to $400|
|Best: If you’re concerned that your driving skills may have diminished.||Best: For a broad spectrum of physical and cognitive disabilities|
Even though you’re no longer driving, there are several options for getting around, so you’re not isolated at home:
- Ask family and friends – Once your family and friends are aware that you’re no longer driving, don’t be hesitant to ask for a ride.
- Walk and bike – Walking and biking in your neighborhood doesn’t cost anything – and it keeps you active and fit.
- Local transit – Check the schedule and maps for public transportation in your neighborhood.
- Taxi service – Although it can get expensive, use a taxi service to get to where you need to go.
- Ridesharing – Use rideshare services such as Lyft, Uber, Drive a Senior, and Envoy to schedule affordable pickup.
- Transit for seniors – Most cities have community shuttles to help you get around.
Depending on where you live, here are some other good resources to help keep you on the road for as long as possible:
- NADTC – National Aging and Disability Transportation Center
- NHTSA – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- ChORUS – Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety
- Create a Roadmap for Transportation Independence
- iTN America
Getting older doesn’t mean having to give up your independence when it comes to driving. What it does mean is being aware of the changes that happen as you age and being prepared to take steps to either keep driving for as long as you can or hang up the keys and look for alternatives in your neighborhood to get to your destination.
The tips and resources in this senior driving guide by CarRentals can help educate you about your changing driving habits, so you’re prepared for driving in your golden years.