As we age, not only does our physical appearance change, but the way our bodies move, and function also changes. Our ability to move swiftly, grasp things tightly, our vision and hearing capabilities, all affect more than our health, they affect the way we drive, something that could get overlooked by elderly people. Elderly drivers need to pay attention to their health and their driving abilities and recognize when it's not safe to drive anymore. An elderly driver that can't drive safely can cause an accident and injure themselves and others on the road. There are some things you or a loved one can do to make sure you're healthy and ready to drive, and other things to look out for as signs that it may be time to retire that driver's license.
Staying Active Physically
Try to find ways to incorporate some physical activity and exercise into your daily routine. Staying active physically will help you have better control of the steering wheel, be more flexible, and overall have better control and react quickly when driving. Remember not to overdo it and exercise as much as you are able to consult with your doctor if you are unsure if a certain type of exercise or physical routine is right for you.
Get Your Eyes and Hearing Tested Regularly
Having good eyesight and hearing is important while driving to be able to drive safely and avoid a car crash. Not being able to hear properly can be dangerous if a driver can't hear an oncoming car, as well as impaired vision, which can be extremely dangerous while driving. Make sure you have an eye and hearing exam regularly to make sure that you are still able to drive safely. If you wear hearing aids check that they are working correctly before driving, and adjust your prescription when necessary, to ensure your vision isn't compromised while behind the wheel.
Adjust Your Vehicle to Your Physical Limitations
As we age, our body's ability to perform tasks deteriorates. Sudden movements may be harder to perform. If you can, adjust your car considering your physical limitations. For example, if it is harder to have a firm grip on the steering wheel, consider using a steering wheel cover that makes holding and turning it easier and more comfortable. Use a car that is easy to get in and out of, if you drive a tall vehicle, you can use an SUV step stool to make it easier and safer to get in and out of the car. Newer models also include safety features that can help elderly drivers, features such as alerts for blind spots, alerts for driving out of your lane, alerts to avoid collisions, rear-view cameras, among others.
Check Your Medications
Some types of medications can have side effects that impact our response time, hearing, vision, or other motor functions that can be dangerous while driving. Some types of medications could also cause drowsiness and confusion, both of which can be dangerous. If you are unsure if it's safe to drive while taking medication, ask your doctor before stepping behind the wheel.
Check License Renewal Laws in Your State
Depending on the state where you live, there are laws in place that require elderly drivers to renew their licenses. The ages differ, but in some states, you are required to submit a new driving exam along with hearing and vision tests. Driving with an expired license could result in penalties and fines, and if you are involved in a car crash it could also impact your car accident claim. Ask your local DMV if you are required to renew your license and what paperwork is needed to do so.
If you feel unsafe while driving, even if you're in excellent health, ask family members or other loved ones to drive you. There is no shame in asking for help when needed. It's better to make a responsible decision than to cause or be involved in an unfortunate accident.