Eight Tips That Could Save Your Life
For most people, driving is such a regular part of everyday life that we don’t think twice about slipping behind the wheel. Years in the driver’s seat give us a lot of valuable experience, but there’s a downside, too: as we age, our risk of getting in car accidents goes up.
Road safety analysts predict that by 2030, when the last of the baby boomers has turned 65, seniors will be responsible for 25 percent of fatal car crashes.
Stay Alert. Stay Alive.
Listen to your body. Aches and pains can impair your driving ability, but sometimes you can mitigate them with simple adjustments. Do your hands ache from gripping the steering wheel? Try a padded steering wheel. Does your back hurt during longer trips? Get an orthopedic seat cushion.
Test Your Eyes and Ears. Today 6.5 million Americans over age 65 suffer from serious vision loss, according to the CDC. Any changes in vision and hearing can make driving dangerous. Visit your doctor for regular check-ups to make sure your eyes and ears are in tip-top shape.
Consider a New Car. Many older adults find that a vehicle with large mirrors and dashboard gauges, and that is easy to get to in and out of, makes driving a lot more comfortable. Check out CarFit, a service offered by AAA that tests your vehicle to find out if it’s ideal for you.
Stay Physically Active. Regular exercise can help keep your body performing well behind the wheel. Try yoga to improve your flexibility and strengthen your core for comfortable long drives. Light weight lifting can help keep your arms from getting tired.
Drive Only in Good Weather. 17% of our car crash fatalities occur during bad weather, according to the U.S. Government of Transportation Road Weather Management Program. Stay off the road when the weather is inclement and you’ll lower your chances of getting into a crash.
Limit Distractions. AAA estimates that 25 to 30 percent of all accidents are caused by a distracted driver. To keep from being one of them, get settled before you press the gas pedal. Choose the radio station, and adjust your mirrors and seat. If you’re using directions, or if you have a GPS, enter your destination before you start driving. Put your cell phone in the back seat to keep yourself from answering calls or texts.
Know Your Medications. Some medications can cause drowsiness, which can lead to accidents. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects. If you’re not supposed to operate a vehicle while taking your medication, don’t.
Take a Refresher Course. If you had to take a high school biology test today, how well would you do? It’s been that long since you’ve learned the rules of the road, so consider updating your driving skills at a local or online class. Some insurance companies will even lower their premium if you do. (See the AAA website to find a class.)
Always remember to ‘watch out for the other guy,’ but also be aware that you could be the ‘other guy’ if you don’t stop, look and listen to safe practices.
Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Complete Care Strategies