Most people take driving for granted. As we age, physical changes make certain actions more challenging. Driving safety for seniors is more than just about being able to drive. It is about the sense of mobility and independence that one gains from the ability to drive. You can help keep your elderly loved one driving longer and enjoying life while staying safe with the following tips and reminders.
- Physical limitations– Consider the physical limitations of your loved one. For example, actions such as gripping the steering wheel, reading the dashboard and reaction time are all things to consider. However, there are many easy solutions to overcome these limitations. Using a steering wheel cover that makes holding and turning the wheel more comfortable and is a simple fix for a senior who has minor arthritis. Choosing a vehicle that features larger, easier-to-read dials on the dashboard is a great option for older drivers. In addition, some newer models offer safety features that can help avoid collisions, change lanes safely, and manage blind spots. At The Inn At Summit Trail we have a full list of activities that include getting our residents out on day trips, lunch outings, and shopping trips.
- Driving Position – Adjusting the position of the driver’s seat, makes it easier to:
- Reach the steering wheel
- See side mirrors
- Recognize obstacles down the road
- Control the vehicle
- Reach the gas pedal and brake
- Driving Refresher Course – Taking a motor vehicle safety for seniors course can help your loved one’s confidence while navigating the roads. It also provides a resource to ask questions that they might be hesitant to bring up with a family member.
CarFit is a free nationwide educational program developed with AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association helps seniors see more from the driver’s seat.
- Vision and Hearing Tests – Hearing and vision tend to decline with age. Impaired hearing limits the ability to hear an approaching emergency vehicle or train. Vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration also can make it difficult to see clearly or drive at night. If your loved one has trouble seeing after dark, then it is best they stick to daylight hours to drive
AAA has a list of items to watch and common warning signs to know when to be concerned.
- Pay Attention to Driving Conditions – It is very important to keep an eye on weather conditions. If it calls for rain or snow or other inclement weather that will make senior driving safety and road conditions dangerous, have a backup plan such as public transportation or having a family member drive.
SIDEBAR: Winter Safety Reminders for Seniors
Here are a few additional tips senior drivers should keep in mind during the winter months:
- Keep the gas tank at least half full when driving during the winter. Having enough gas will allow the car to run every 30 minutes to stay warm.
- Watch the weather report. Even a quick trip to the grocery store can turn hazardous when a winter storm blows through.
- Stock the refrigerator, pantry, and medication cupboard. Seniors don’t want to be forced to drive on a cold, snowy day. That’s why it’s important to keep an adequate supply of food and medication on hand.
- Explore alternative transportation options. Ridesharing services and local Dial-A-Ride programs can help older adults limit driving during the winter.