Driving is a way of keeping individuals mobile and independent. The ability to drive to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, or to eat out with friends brings great joy to many lives. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in 2015, there were more than 40 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States. The risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as you age. Below you will find tips that older adults can take to stay safer on the roads.
10 Safe Driving Tips
- Have your driving skills checked by a driving rehabilitation specialist, occupational therapist, or other trained professional.
- When bad weather arises like rain, ice, or snow, don’t go out. Try to wait until the weather is better or use other transportation services.
- Avoid high traffic areas where driving can be difficult. Choose routes that avoid interstates, road construction, or that requires few or no left turns.
- Leave a car length amount of space between you and the car in front of you.
- Start braking early when you need to stop.
- Drive during the least busy time of the day. Avoid rush hour traffic.
- If you must drive on the interstate. Try to drive in the right-hand lane.
- Read medicine labels carefully. Look for any warnings that may indicate increase drowsiness, dizziness, or no operation of the vehicle while consuming.
- Make a list of all of your medicines, and talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how they can affect your driving.
- Try to eliminate as many distractions inside of the car as possible. Keep the radio turned low, conversations at a minimum, and avoid all cell phone usage.
Optimal Blind Spot Elimination
The first step is to adjust the rear-view mirror to give you a view directly to the rear. Position it so that it best covers your view straight out the rear window. Next, lean your head and body forward until it almost touches the driver’s side window. Then, adjust your left side mirrors so that you can barely see the handle on the back door of the car. Lastly, sit all the way back in the seat with your hands positioned comfortably on the steering wheel. Adjust the mirror so that you can barely see the handle on the back passenger door. Though it is impossible to completely eliminate all blind spots, these tips will help you eliminate most of the blind spots.
Caregivers Keeping Older Drivers Safe
- Get the car serviced regularly and check the gas, oil, and tire pressure.
- Watch for signs of driving problems – getting lost, driving too slowly or too quickly, getting anxious or frustrated, and having close calls or accidents.
- You may need to set limits on driving, such as restricting when, where, and how far they can drive.
- Consider free transportation options. Some hospitals, senior centers, and adult daycares often have services to take elderly people to doctors’ appointments, shopping, and other errands.
- Keep a list of transportation options by the phone. Include the names and numbers of any friends, neighbors, and other caregivers.
- Get a comprehensive driving evaluation. Contact a driver rehabilitation specialist (DRS) or occupational therapist near you to receive an assessment.
- Talk to your loved one about driving. Try keeping an open dialogue on where your loved one wants to drive and when. With a compassionate approach, things will go more smoothly.
- Ultimately, if it’s dangerous, take away the keys. Though it’s not easy, if your loved one has become a risk to themselves or others while driving, you have to take away access to the car. Getting a doctor or other medical professional involved may make it easier for your loved on to accept the situation.
Driving can be a sensitive subject to approach with your loved one. The occupational therapists at Sage Outpatient are trained in conducting a comprehensive driving evaluation. The occupational therapists assess cognitive, visual, and motor skills as they relate to driving. There is also an on the road assessment that is completed when warranted. Recommendations on maintaining safety when driving are provided at the end of the evaluation. If you or your loved one would benefit from a comprehensive driving evaluation at Sage Outpatient, give us a call at 225-906-4097.