As much or more than they wish to remain in their homes as they age, today’s seniors wish to keep their ability to drive for as long as possible.
This should come as no surprise to most adults. The capacity to drive represents their ability to enjoy out-of-home activities when they choose to, and that is linked to a feeling of independence and control.
Seniors will stop driving in certain situations so that they can continue driving when they feel it’s safe. They may not drive at night, only drive short distances, not drive in bad weather or on freeways or unfamiliar roads.
These self-imposed restrictions allow them to feel more comfortable behind the wheel and may extend the number of years they can safely drive.
Here are six more ways seniors may extend their safe driving into their later years.
1. Stay healthy. A senior’s health status has a huge impact on their driving ability. Heart disease and diabetes have been linked to the occurrence of crashes by older drivers. According to the AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, older adults who have fallen are about 40 percent more likely to experience a motor vehicle crash than older adults who had not.
2. Get enough sleep. Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health and quality of life and improves your reaction time in response to a potential accident.
3. Build your flexibility. Age takes its toll on flexibility. Many older drivers experience difficulty simply getting in and out of their vehicles. Others have challenges with performing the range of motion activities required to properly drive a car.
Those interested in learning about exercises to improve neck, shoulder, back and overall body flexibility can go to www.Seniordriving.aaa.com.
4. Learn smart driving techniques. Take AARP’s Smart Driver Course or log into AARP’s Driver Resource Center.
Among other things, the resource center allows seniors to practice their skills in six real life interactive driving situations. The site’s drug-interaction checker lets a person enter their medications and supplements to see how they interact and may affect driving.
5. Look for a medium height car. According to Kiplinger magazine, small cars tend to be too low to the ground for seniors to get into easily and often don’t have the leg and head room that an older body needs.
Big vehicles often have a step up to enter the car that is hard to navigate for seniors with mobility issues. Bigger cars are also tough to maneuver in tight parking spaces.
6. Buy or lease a late-model car. Late-model cars have a host of new technology designed to make driving easier for all of us, seniors included. My husband and I tend to buy preowned vehicles (a fancy way to say used), so we never have the latest and greatest gizmos in our cars.
Recently, one of our Senior Concerns staff bought a new Subaru Impreza. Riding in her car, I was impressed with how many new technology options are available to make it easier to be a safe driver.
Our staff member ’s new car has EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which includes a warning system that indicates when you cross a lane without activating your signal and a pre-collision braking system that automatically stops the car before it collides with an object.
Her car also has a backup camera. Besides dramatically reducing the number of backover accidents, a backup camera makes parking much easier.
Older drivers represent the fastest-growing driving population. Studies have shown seniors suffer a significant reduction in their quality of life when they are no longer able to drive.
It’s important we find ways to keep them and others safe on the road.