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Millie Suk
Millie Suk
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Driving Safely: Older Drivers

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With age comes experience and wisdom. Older drivers have the distinct advantage of experience and knowledge derived from those experiences, as compared to younger drivers. However, while experience certainly counts for a lot out on the roadway, older drivers must also contend with the physical changes occurring with age.

Aging tends to result in a reduction in muscle strength and flexibility, making it more difficult to look over your shoulder or apply sufficient pressure to the brake or gas pedal. Aging also tends to affect reflexes and reaction time. Here a few tips for older drivers (or any driver with a physical impairment):

  • - Know your limitations – Talk with your doctor about any physical ailments and/or any medications you are on and how they may affect your driving ability. Make the necessary adjustments – such as not driving at night if your vision is a concern.
  • - Have regular screenings – Ask your doctor how often you should have hearing and vision screenings. Even if you don’t currently have problems, it is always best to catch potential problems early.
  • - Plan ahead – Know your route ahead of time so you can avoid attempting to read maps. If you use a GPS, plug your destination into the device before beginning to drive.
  • - Drive in optimal conditions – When possible, drive during daylight hours, in good weather, and in familiar areas.
  • - Drive defensively – With the increasing use of technology, distracted driving is a growing problem among all drivers, so pay attention to other drivers and give yourself some extra space to stop. This also means that you should drive appropriately to the flow of traffic. If you inappropriately drive significantly slower than the speed limit, you may actually be increasing your risk of being struck by an approaching vehicle.

Everyone ages differently, and, as a result, there is no mandatory cut-off age for older drivers. However, if someone close to you has expressed concern over your driving ability, it may be time to consider giving up the keys or taking a safety course specifically designed for older drivers. Many communities offer such courses, AARP even offers online courses. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers an online self-assessment tool. You should also speak with your physician and get his/her opinion on your driving ability.

Think about it.