Are you prepared for the shorter days and more inclement weather of fall and winter? It might be a good time to assess your driving skills and make sure that you are being as safe as possible on the road. Even a slight fender bender can result in painful injuries like sprains, broken bones and whiplash which can require you to wear a specialty neck brace and take time off from driving.
Driving has always been a hallmark of independence for seniors and giving up your license can feel like a devastating blow. You can actually take proactive steps now to ensure your safety on the road as well as keep your driving skill set sharp.
Don’t miss these essential tips for older drives:
Vision and hearing. Your eyesight and hearing play an essential role in keeping you safe on the road. Make sure to get your vision and hearing checked regularly to address any issues that may be affecting your ability to clearly see traffic lights, road signs, and other motorists. If you are hard of hearing, be vigilant about keeping an eye out for flashing lights and emergency vehicles on the road too.
Check medications. It is also a good idea to consult with your doctor or pharmacist regarding the medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medicines and supplements). You want to make sure that there are no potential interactions or adverse side effects which could cause you to have a car accident, like drowsiness or dizziness.
Reinforce a strong sleep schedule. Good sleep habits have been shown to not just benefit your overall health but to keep you alert and aware on the road as well. Avoid driving if you are sleep-deprived or tired as lack of sleep can contribute to diminished reflexes and poor decision-making while driving.
The ultimate senior driving tip is to refresh your driving skills with an older adult defensive driving course. You or you can find local and online classes and more safe driving resources from AARP. Also remember to:
Avoid driving during peak traffic periods. That might mean scheduling get-togethers with friends and errands outside of morning and evening rush hours. Being on the road with fewer motorists as well as avoiding the stress road traffic can cause will ultimately keep you safer.
Stick with familiarity. Try and take routes with roads you are familiar with. Confusing directions and unfamiliar streets can make your driving more difficult and stressful and can possibly increase your chances of missing things on the road while you’re trying to look at street signs and figure out where you are.
Avoid venturing out in bad weather. Slick roadways, driving rain or snow, and even strong winds can put you at a higher risk of an having an accident while driving. Take advantage of grocery and prescription delivery services during bouts of bad weather to get the things you need without risking your safety behind the wheel.
Is your car in good shape to keep you moving and protected on the road? Even simple things like old wiper blades can inhibit your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Before you head out, make sure to:
Clean your rearview and side view mirrors as well as any windows to remove spots and streaks that may cause sun glare or reduce your visibility
Keep up with regular inspections, oil changes, and tune-ups to avoid unwanted breakdowns on the road. Check your tires especially to make sure they are filled with enough air and still have good tread for handling bad winter weather.
Replace wiper blades (every 6 months to a year) or as soon as you see a change in your driving visibility like smears or streaks on the windshield
Utilize ease-of-use tools for getting in and out of the car (especially onto an icy or slick driveway). Car canes and car caddies, for example, can simplify the transfer in and out of the car as well as provide you an extra support to hold onto as you steady yourself on the ground.
Make sure you have an emergency kit packed in your car in the event you break down or have an accident in cold weather. Keep a supply of water bottles, a flashlight, a warm blanket, some non-perishable snacks, as well as first-aid items in the car.
Double check that jumper cables are handy in your car as well as emergency contact numbers like your insurance company’s phone number for a tow service.
And don’t forget your smartphone! While you don’t want to place calls or text while driving, it will come in handy in case you do have an emergency on the road.