7 Ways for Seniors to Stay Safe on the Road

Even before you reach the age of 60, you may notice changes to your vision, hearing, and reaction time, changes that can impair your ability to drive safely. Drivers 70 and older face an increased risk of experiencing, and possibly not surviving, a driving related accident. Being aware of your body’s physiological changes and understanding how to drive defensively and safely can help you maintain your independence and prevent the potential for a serious accident. Here are seven ways seniors can stay safe on the road.

  1. Prepare your vehicle:

    Before you hit the road, take time to prepare your vehicle so that you are safe and comfortable behind the wheel. Adjust the driver’s seat and rear view mirrors so you can easily reach the pedals and have a clear view of what’s behind you. Make sure you are carrying your driver’s license and that your registration and insurance information are in the glove compartment. Also be sure to bring your car in for regular maintenance to keep it running as smoothly as possible.

  2. Drive the right kind of car:

    Once you hit the age of 60, you may find that you need to drive a different type of vehicle that accommodates your physical limitations, provides you with a comfortable driving experience, and helps ensure your safety in the event of an accident. Check out sites like carsdirect and Edmunds for suggestions for vehicles that are especially suitable for senior drivers. An occupational therapist can also assist you in determining what kind of vehicle best fits your needs.

  3. Avoid busy roads and highways:

    As you get older, knowing and acknowledging your physical limitations is crucial for your safety and the safety of others on the road. Explore different driving routes with less traffic and less distractions. Understand that your reaction time will slow down as you age, so avoid situations where you may have to turn left suddenly or navigate road construction. If your night vision isn’t reliable, then if possible, don’t drive after dark or in inclement weather.

  4. Check your medications:

    Whether you are taking a prescription or over the counter drug, be aware that medication, especially combinations of medication, can impair your ability to drive safely. Tranquilizers, pain pills, sleep medicines, antihistamines, and decongestants can all affect your reaction time while on the road. Regularly do an inventory of your medications with your doctor so you’re aware of any and all potential side effects.

  5. Know your state’s licensing laws:

    The laws for drivers, especially senior-aged drivers, are different depending on which state you live in. Depending on your age, some states require you to renew your license in person every couple of years and pass a vision test. In other states, it’s every four years. Check out the state map on the American Automobile Association’s website and click on your state to see its laws. Then be sure to update your driver’s license accordingly.

  6. Have your hearing and vision checked:

    For your own safety and the safety of your fellow drivers, have your vision and hearing checked annually, even if your state doesn’t require it in order for you to drive. For your vision, you’ll want to be sure your prescription is up to date. When it comes to your hearing, if you can’t hear an emergency siren, car horn, or bells at a railroad crossing, you are definitely in danger of having an accident.

  7. Take a refresher course:

    Taking a refresher course is a great way for any driver, no matter how old they are, to brush up their defensive driving skills and review the rules of the road. The American Automobile Association offers driving courses for senior drivers, courses that upon completion may provide you with a deduction on your auto insurance. You can also check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and local traffic schools to find a refresher driving course that suits your experience and abilities.