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10 Safe Driving Tips for Older Adults

Getting older comes with both positive and less-than-positive changes. On the one hand, in retirement you have more time to do the things you love. But aging also brings new medications, vision decline, slower reaction times and reduced hearing — all of which can pose challenges when you get behind the wheel. These safe driving tips can help you stay safe on the road.

1. Get Your Hearing and Eyesight Checked Regularly

Many people experience impaired hearing and vision problems, such as cataracts or glaucoma, as they get older. This can make it difficult to drive at night or to hear the sounds of approaching traffic. To ensure your senses are functioning as they should, ask your doctor how often you should schedule vision and hearing tests — then follow up on those appointments in a timely manner.   

2. Talk with Your Medical Provider

When you experience changes to your health or start taking new medications, it’s important to discuss side effects with your healthcare provider. Some medications may have side effects that can impact your driving, like increased drowsiness, sensitivity to light and dizziness.

3. Avoid Distractions

No matter your age, avoiding distractions while behind the wheel is a smart decision for everyone. Practice safe driving practices like putting your phone away or turning on the do not disturb function, lowering the volume on the radio, avoiding eating while driving and adjusting the vehicle’s mirror and seat settings before hitting the road.

4. Limit Driving at Night or During Inclement Weather

Driving in low-visibility conditions, like when it’s dark outside or during heavy rain, snow or fog can be dangerous. If possible, try to drive during the daylight and in good weather conditions whenever possible.

5. Choose Routes Carefully

Try to avoid higher-speed roadways like interstates and highways. It’s also good to limit routes that call for making left turns onto busy roads. If you have a destination you visit with regular frequency, pick a route that you know well and are comfortable driving.

6. Sign Up for Driving Courses

Not only does a defensive driving course offer a refresher on the rules of the road, it also offers you an opportunity to brush up on your driving skills and possibly earn discounts on your auto insurance. AAA provides its members with RoadWise Driver, a senior driver improvement course, and AARP hosts its all-ages Smart Driver course.   

7. Allow Extra Space

Give yourself and other drivers extra space to allow for more time to brake or change lanes.

8. Pick a Car with Safety Features

When shopping for a car, consider newer vehicles that include features that can help reduce the likelihood of crashes. Look for options like:

  • forward collision warning;
  • automatic crash notifications;
  • parking assist, backup cameras; and
  • self-parking and navigation assistance.

While these features can’t guarantee an accident-free driving experience, they are proven to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents .

9. Be Honest About Your Abilities

Every driver is different, and there’s no set age for when you need to hand over the car keys. So how do you know when it’s time to stop driving? Evaluate your skills and be honest about your abilities. Here are some signs that might indicate your driving is jeopardizing your safety and the safety of others:

  • Frequent “near-misses” that could cause accidents;
  • Inability to control consistent speeds;
  • Difficulty recognizing the distance between cars and other objects;
  • Difficulty switching lanes;
  • Failure to stop or yield at traffic lights;
  • Forgetting to signal; or
  • Getting lost in familiar areas.

10. Ask for Help

When driving becomes difficult, or if you find yourself confused while on the road, ask for help from a trusted friend or family member. Starting this conversation doesn’t mean you have to completely give up driving; it just might mean you no longer drive at night or you ask a relative to drive when you need to travel long distances. You can also research public transit, taxi services, rideshares such as Uber or Lyft, or check with local senior centers to see if they offer transportation in your area.   

Be Sure Your Coverage Is Keeping Up

Talk with your local Farm Bureau agent to help ensure your automobile insurance is still providing you with adequate coverage to protect you and your vehicle.