Driving as we age

Irritating but true: Aging brings changes that make safe driving more of a challenge. Slower reflexes. Reduced vision and hearing. Difficulty concentrating. Less flexibility in the neck and shoulders.

Fortunately, these changes do not come on suddenly. And adjustments in driving habits can offset them such that older drivers can be much safer than their younger counterparts.

Safe driving starts with a willingness to be honest with yourself about modifications.

A few signs that adjustments may be in order:

  • Thoughts wander when you drive
  • Frequently startled or uncertain in high-traffic conditions
  • Taking medicines that list drowsiness as a side effect
  • One or two tickets or verbal warnings from police in the past two years
  • Dents in the car, or even a collision in the past two years
  • Comments or concerns expressed by family or friends

Take a self-assessment. The American Automobile Association (AAA) offers a free, confidential test at seniordriving.aaa.com.

Consider a Mature Driver Course. AAA and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) offer courses filled with tips. Your car insurance may even discount your premiums.

Easy things you can do right now:

  • Flexibility exercises. Increase mobility in your neck and shoulders so you can readily turn your head to check for blind spots when changing lanes or backing up.
  • Reduce distractions. Turn off the radio. No eating or drinking while driving. Definitely no phone calls. Consider halting conversation with passengers when driving conditions are complicated (e.g., at intersections).
  • Drive mid-day. Avoid rush hour and freeways. And if you have trouble with night vision, plan your trips so you are home before twilight.
  • Make a left turn only at a left-turn light. If there is no stoplight, drive a block farther and make three right turns. (Three rights make a left.)

Wondering about your driving?
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