Some driving skills, such as the ability to read signs and generally obey “the rules of the road,” do not diminish with age. In fact, they usually improve. But there is more to being a good driver than reading street signs or watching the needle on the speedometer.
As people get older, some of the physical skills they once had are not as sharp as they used to be. For example, turning one’s head to check traffic before changing lanes might not be as easy as it used to be.
In many cases, a few appointments with an occupational therapist can make a big difference. These individuals are specially trained to help older folks stay behind the wheel. In many other cases, however, being aware of a few driving tips can also make a very big difference.
Regular Vision Checks
This is probably the best way to stay on the road longer. Seniors should have their vision checked at least once every two years, and once a year is even better. If the doctor identifies issues, there are a number of possible alternatives:
Eye surgery can permanently correct vision problems, and laser procedures are now even safer and more affordable than they were even just a few years ago.
Typically, a new lens prescription does the trick, especially if you’re already used to wearing glasses or contacts.
On the other end of the scale, glare-reducing sunglasses can significantly improve vision, with or without surgery or corrective lenses.
Regular check-ups also help doctors diagnose and treat more serious problems, such as cataracts. If caught early enough, even these kinds of issues can often be addressed in simple, in-office surgical procedures.
Correct Driving Posture
For many people, prolonged driving (which means more than fifteen or twenty minutes) usually means discomfort as well. That’s an added distraction you simply do not need. Moreover, with all the large pickup trucks and SUVs on the road today, it’s even harder to see darting motorcycles, child pedestrians, and other hazards.
Additional lumbar support for the car kills two birds with one stone. Specially-designed support pillows ease pressure on your lower back, which reduces pain. Moreover, especially if used frequently, added support can address posture issues and help improve vision while driving.
While we’re on the subject, there are some other attachments and devices to help address specific issues. For example, an extended rear-view mirror usually improves visibility, as do attachments or extensions to side view mirrors.
If your friend or loved one balks at these attachments, gently remind him or her that the alternative is staying home, and compliance usually comes forthwith.
Diminished hearing is one of the leading causes of slower reaction times, and when behind the wheel, an extra millisecond or two makes a big difference. People over 65 should get hearing tests at least once every three years.
Keeping the inside of the car as quiet as possible should help, so turn down the radio and keep the conversation to a minimum. These tips are also useful when it comes to focusing on the road, which is something that drivers of all ages need to practice more.
Be Aware of Medicine Side-Effects
Certain medications, either when taken alone or in combination with others, cause drowsiness, dizziness, and other such side-effects. It’s not always possible to detect the existence and extent of these side-effects simply by reading the label, so keep in close touch with your doctor about these issues. Be sure and tell your doctor about any over-the-counter medicines you have in your medicine cabinet as well.
By following these tips, and others like them, seniors can be safer on the road and keep driving longer.