5 safety tips for older drivers

December 6, 2015 Providence Health Team

Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up driving (or your independence). However, you may need to take precautions and adjust your driving habits. Read on and find ways to stay safe on the road.

1) Vision

Get your eyes checked every one to two years. Doctors can remedy some eye problems, such as cataracts, with surgery. You may need a new prescription or features such as anti-reflective lenses or polarized sunglasses. If you’re 60 or older, you should also consider getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least annually. If it’s difficult for you to see at night, limit your driving to the daytime.

2) Hearing

Have your hearing checked every three years. If you need a hearing aid, remember to wear it while driving. Also keep music and conversations low if you have a hard time hearing.

3) Driving tips

It’s natural for reaction times to slow with age. Make sure not to follow cars too closely. A good rule of thumb is the four-second rule: Count “1001, 1002, 1003, 1004” to be sure you’re leaving enough space between you and the vehicle ahead. On the highway, stay in the right lane where cars drive more slowly. Avoid high-traffic areas and busy times of the day. Consider registering for a driving refresher course or a defensive driving class. Taking one of these courses may make you eligible for a discount on your auto insurance, and it could boost your confidence behind the wheel.

4) Vehicle features

If possible, drive a car that has power steering, power brakes and large mirrors. Your seat height should allow you to see at least 10 feet in front of you.

5) Medications

Pay close attention to warning labels on prescription and over-the-counter drugs. If a label says, “Do not use while operating heavy machinery,” you should not drive while taking the medication. Never drive if you feel lightheaded or dizzy. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re concerned about side effects. You may be able to adjust your dose or timing to minimize those effects.

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