The natural aging process affects the body in a number of ways, from physical changes, like diminished hearing and eyesight, to mental and cognitive changes, like reduced reaction times and memory issues. All of these age-related changes can impact an elderly motorist’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. In fact, older drivers are more than twice as likely to have a medical issue that can impact their ability to drive compared to younger drivers. However, that does not mean that all motorists of a certain age have to hand over their car keys and give up driving altogether. There are a range of safety tips that can help older drivers stay safe behind the wheel and avoid a serious car accident.
When a new driver gets their license, it is a major milestone, and one of the first significant steps towards independence and adulthood. For older drivers, the prospect of no longer being able to drive due to age-related physical or mental health issues is a significant loss of independence. Fortunately, there are a number of proactive steps older drivers can take to stay physically and mentally fit and avoid a serious accident.
Getting regular physical activity helps older drivers improve their strength, flexibility, and stamina. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is a great way to get into shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Taking daily walks, doing sit-to-stand exercises, and stretching and strength training using light weights are all great ways to stay active and avoid an unhealthy lifestyle.
These simple exercises can help improve your driving skills by making it easier to look over your shoulder before changing lanes or making other movements when driving or parking.
Have Your Vision and Hearing Checked Regularly
Your hearing and vision declines with age, so it is extremely important to have them checked. Because the decline tends to happen slowly over time, you may not notice a change right away.
Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are all common age-related vision problems. Hearing problems are also common. Today’s hearing aids are barely visible and can significantly improve your hearing.
Manage Your Medications
Many older adults take multiple medications to manage certain health issues. In addition to the prescribed drugs that they take every day, they may also be taking something for pain or for an infection. Many drugs cause drowsiness, dizziness, or other side effects that can be extremely dangerous if you are behind the wheel.
Always read the label, and consult with your doctor or pharmacist about whether it is unsafe to drive while taking a certain medication.
Since older drivers tend to have slower reaction times, it is extremely important to avoid distractions and focus their attention on the road ahead while driving. Eating, talking, texting on the phone, and programming the GPS are all distractions that should be avoided.
Avoid Driving at Night
Many older drivers already have vision issues, and driving at night can be particularly difficult for the elderly. Therefore, it is highly recommended that elderly motorists avoid getting behind the wheel after the sun has gone down.
Take a Defensive Driving Course
Drivers of all ages can benefit from taking a defensive driving course, and even though senior drivers may have a lot of experience behind the wheel, it is a good idea to take a refresher course on driving techniques. Seniors can learn specific tips about how to reduce the risk of a serious accident.
Avoid Driving in Inclement Weather
All motorists should avoid driving if roadways are covered in ice or freezing rain or if visibility is an issue. However, this is particularly true for older drivers who should wait to drive until the inclement weather has passed and the road conditions are safe.
Avoid Driving in Heavy Traffic
During peak traffic times, motorists can become impatient and stressed, causing them to drive too fast, tailgate, cut off other drivers, and engage in other dangerous actions that can cause an accident. When possible, older drivers should avoid driving during the morning and evening rush hour or when traffic is particularly heavy.
Consider Consulting With a Driving Rehabilitation Specialist
These trained professionals evaluate older drivers for a range of issues, including the following:
- Muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
- Coordination and reaction time.
- Judgment and decision-making skills.
- Ability to drive with specialized, adaptive devices.
Understand Your Limitations
While it is not always easy to recognize the fact that you may have developed age-related physical or cognitive limitations, it is important to be realistic and make the necessary adjustments. For example, if gripping the steering wheel causes your hands to hurt, consider purchasing a steering wheel cover that makes it more comfortable to grip the wheel.
A doctor or physical therapist can make other recommendations for exercises or devices that can address your needs and keep you safe while driving.
Always Wear a Seat Belt
Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest and most effective ways you can prevent a serious injury. It is just as important for backseat passengers to buckle up as it is for the driver and passenger in the front seat.
What Advanced Safety Features Help Protect Older Drivers?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, over 8,000 adults aged 65 years old and older were fatally injured in car accidents. It is difficult to face the reality that age-related factors make driving potentially unsafe, but the following are some of the risks that older drivers may face:
- Seniors are more likely to suffer from a range of health issues that can affect their driving, including arthritis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and dementia.
- Elderly drivers have slower reaction times, which means they may be less able to react quickly enough to avoid an accident.
- Older drivers are also more likely to be on a range of medications that may cause drowsiness or other side effects that can impact their ability to operate a motor vehicle.
- Older drivers often have vision issues that can make it difficult to see objects or read road signs. This is particularly true when driving at night.
- Older drivers may be more likely to become distracted by another passenger, a phone call, or listening to music or an audio book.
- Elderly drivers may also become drowsy, particularly when driving at night.
Fortunately, today’s motor vehicles are equipped with a wide range of advanced safety features, making them safer than ever:
- Forward collision warning: This warns drivers if a crash is imminent. The system will apply the brakes if it detects a potential crash.
- Automatic crash notification: This will signal emergency services that there has been a car accident without the driver having to call 911.
- Parking assist with rear-view display: The backup cameras equipped in the vehicle allow the driver to see what is behind them when they are reversing. Some vehicles will notify you if you are about to hit something.
- Automatic self-parking systems: Some vehicles are equipped with technology that takes over the steering so that the vehicle can parallel park itself.
- Navigation assistance: Turn-by-turn GPS systems help older drivers feel more confident and more relaxed. However, some of these systems can be distracting and difficult to use, particularly if the older driver is not comfortable with using certain types of technology. Motorists should always program their navigation system before they start driving.
Springfield Car Accident Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Can Help You After an Elderly Driver Collision
Our Springfield car accident lawyers at Kicklighter Law can help you if you have been injured in an elderly driver collision. Call us at 912-754-6003 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.