Safe summer driving for seniors
Memorial Day marked the unofficial start of summer. As the weather gets warmer and people travel more, we must be cautious on the road. It is time to brush up on our driving skills. Older adults as well need to assess their driving proficiency. Many older drivers have years of experience behind the wheel and are safe drivers. As we age, studies indicate we can experience sensory loss – this includes vision, hearing, reflexes, and in some older adults, cognitive decline.
The Kansas Highway Patrol states that older drivers have as many accidents as younger, less experienced drivers. However, injury to older adults can be more severe than to younger drivers and sometimes deadly. People need to be aware of the sensory changes as we age and realize they may need to adjust their driving activities or consider other modes of transportation. What are some things to consider, and what can you do?
As we get older, our vision begins to decline. If you have difficulties reading highway signs or seeing lane markers, curbs, people or other vehicles, your vision might be an issue. Is driving at night or in the rain more difficult? Follow these suggestions to help improve your vision:
• Make sure to keep up with your annual vision exam. An eye exam is essential for driving safety and your eye health. Your doctor will also screen for eye diseases that could affect your vision. You may need a new prescription to help you see better.
• Make sure your windows are not tinted or darkened.
• Avoid driving at dawn, dusk or at night.
• Keep your windshield and mirrors clean.
Driving a vehicle requires you to divide your attention on multiple things that are going on around you. As we age, our reaction time begins to slow. You may have a reduced reaction time if you feel overwhelmed driving; you may find it harder to judge distances between other traffic. The medication you take could also cause you to have reduced reaction time. You may believe that cars just come out of nowhere.
• Plan your trip and stick to familiar roads.
• Drive during the day and stay out of rush hour traffic.
• Keep a safe following distance to allow you more time to react.
• Don’t be distracted by conversations, radio, or cell phones.
Your physical limitations may impact your driving ability. Consider other people’s concerns about your driving abilities, especially if they are those you trust. If you are concerned about driving, talk with your doctor to discuss if your medications that may be causing side effects that may impair your driving. Review driving basics and consider taking a driving course for older adults. You also may get a discount on your auto insurance for completing the course.
Lastly, be prepared to find alternative ways to meet your transportation needs before a crisis occurs.