December 14, 2021

What Are Safety Tips for Older Drivers?

older drivers

Since 2010, the number of people in the United States aged 65 and older has increased by more than 34 percent, and in 2019 this age group accounted for 20 percent of all traffic fatalities. As the U.S. population ages, the safety of older drivers is more important than ever. Understanding how aging affects driving and what to do about it can help older drivers and their caregivers stay safe behind the wheel and avoid a car accident.

Stay Physically Fit

Staying active is the key to staying fit as you get older. Find an activity that you love, such as tennis, swimming, walking, or biking, and stick with it. Joining a group of people with similar interests can help you maintain a regular schedule of exercise and activity. Always check with your doctor before starting a new routine, especially if you have been sedentary.

Another factor in staying physically fit is scheduling regular examinations including an annual checkup, vision, and hearing tests. This is a great way to establish a good relationship with a primary care physician and monitor your capabilities. Vision and hearing decline naturally with age and should be checked regularly to catch problems early. Knowing how your body is changing can help you make age-related adjustments that will help you stay safe on the road.

Drivers diagnosed with medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cataracts, diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, or stroke should consider working with a driving specialist who can assess your driving skills and help you decide if you need to stop driving.

Avoid Difficult Driving Conditions

Night driving can be problematic for aging eyes, which are more sensitive to bright lights and glare. Limit driving to the daylight hours when visibility is optimal.

Bad weather should likewise be avoided. Check the weather forecast before scheduling a trip and stay home if snow, ice, rain, or fog are likely. Hazardous road conditions make driving more difficult.

Your route and time of day also factor into safety. Choose a route that is easy to drive even if it is slightly longer. For instance, it may be possible to avoid difficult left turns and busy intersections by taking a different route. Try to avoid being out on the road during rush hour and other peak driving times. Lighter traffic is less stressful and reduces the chances of being involved in an accident.

Drive Only When Well Rested

Consider staying off the road on days when you are tired, stressed, or not feeling well. Pay attention to how medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, affect your driving, and avoid driving if you are feeling drowsy or sluggish. Driving while fatigued is extremely dangerous and can cause a serious accident. If you are having trouble staying alert, pull over and take a nap or break until you can continue with good concentration and focus.

Other safe driving behaviors that older drivers should review include maintaining a safe speed; scanning the road ahead; keeping a generous amount of following distance to the car in front; always wearing a seat belt; and avoiding distracted driving such as not eating, drinking, or using a cell phone.

Safety Technology that Can Help Older Drivers

Advances in safety technology have been proved to help reduce accidents for older drivers. Forward collision warning systems can sense if the vehicle is about to crash and automatically apply the brakes. Parking assist programs can help older drivers get in and out of spaces by providing a clear view of the back and sides of the vehicle. Some programs can warn the driver if an obstacle is about to be hit, and the most advanced systems can even take over the steering and park the car for you.

Navigation systems that show each upcoming turn can also help boost confidence in older drivers by reducing stress and supporting safe driving. Each make and model of car has slightly different navigation systems, so drivers should choose one that feels comfortable to operate and be thoroughly familiar with it before hitting the road.

Defensive Driving Programs for Older Drivers

Any driver can benefit from taking a defensive driving refresher course, and many older adults will find it fun to review safe driving tips, perhaps learn something new, and possibly lower their auto insurance rate. Completing a defensive driving course also helps drivers to feel more confident behind the wheel.

What are Some Warning Signs that an Older Driver Needs to Limit Their Time on the Road?

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recommends that mature drivers and their families look for the following warning signs that a driver’s capabilities have changed and need evaluating:

  • Getting lost or confused easily
  • Slowed reflexes when responding to unexpected events
  • Weaving and difficulty staying in the lane of traffic
  • Feeling of fear, apprehension, and nervousness behind the wheel
  • Unexplained scratches or dents on the car or on nearby property such as the garage, fence, or mailbox
  • Difficulty judging gaps in traffic when entering or exiting the highway or at intersections
  • Frequent warnings or tickets from law enforcement
  • Frequent near-accidents whether with other vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians

There is no number that determines when a person is too old to continue driving because everybody ages differently. However, if you or someone you love is exhibiting any of the above signs, it may be time to consider limiting the amount of time spent driving. It could mean driving only during the day and to familiar locations. A driving rehabilitation specialist is someone trained to evaluate older drivers on their coordination, reaction time, muscle strength, and judgment skills. They can determine if specialized adaptive devices could be a solution and can make recommendations for safer driving.

Norristown Car Accident Lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Advocate for Injured Victims

Most car accidents are caused by driver error. This may be an issue with an older driver. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by the negligent error of another driver, you may be eligible for compensation. Let the skilled Norristown car accident lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. deal with the insurance companies and paperwork so that you can concentrate on your recovery. Call us at 267-861-7100 or visit our website to set up a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, and Norristown.