Safe Driving for Seniors: How to Stay Independent for Longer

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hand on steering wheel

Safe driving for seniors can be a sticky subject. As we age, we want to remain as independent as possible and be able to drive when & where we want to on our terms.

Becoming a senior does not mean it’s no longer ok to drive but what it does mean is that it’s important to pay closer attention to your driving ability.

As we age our reflexes and vision worsen and this can be a recipe for dangerous driving.

There is not a certain age everyone should stop driving but knowing what to look for when it might be time is important.

Here are some signs from Everyday Health which could hint it may be time to hang up your keys:

  1. Stopping at green lights
  2. Not stopping at stop signs or red lights
  3. Getting lost when you’ve been to the area many times
  4. A family member has raised concerns about your driving
  5. Damage to the car from bumping into things
  6. Sideswiping other cars
  7. Not able to drive with the flow of traffic
  8. Trouble switching lanes
  9. Getting in and out of parking spots
  10. Hear frequent honking
  11. Memory problems
  12. Have hearing or seeing problems
  13. Turned 85

Each state also takes safe driving for seniors seriously. There are different rules and regulations for drivers over a certain age in every state which require more frequent renewals and fewer renewal options.  

Maybe you’ve noticed driving isn’t as easy as it used to be but you’re still safe to drive.

Consider taking an improvement or defensive driving course to brush up on driving skills and become a better driver.

For example, California offers a mature driver improvement course which covers issues related to safe driving for seniors over 55 and teaches topics related to updated rules of the road, effects of medication & fatigue, visual and auditory limitations and more.

Another added benefit is that some insurance companies offer discounts if courses like these are taken.

Sometimes issues interfering with driving may only occur during certain instances such as during the night or after long hours.

Being safer could simply mean making adjustments such as not driving at night or limiting yourself to a certain number of hours in the car at a time.

Another option is to get a wearable safety alert enabled with GPS which can automatically alert medical personnel to your location in the case of an emergency.

This is a great option for drivers not showing signs of needing to stop driving but want to add extra protection or wanting to ease family members peace of mind while they are on the road.

 If you’re noticing a decline in mobility, get more physically active. A large factor in safe driving for seniors can be alleviated by improving their strength and flexibility from certain exercises.  Look into activities such as yoga, water aerobics, and brisk walking.

If it’s a common ailment found in seniors such as arthritis or joint pain inhibiting your driving, speak with your doctor to learn how to alleviate these pain points.

A tip most often overlooked regarding safe driving for seniors is making sure that their body fits with their vehicle.

A guide from AAA shows correct positions for the body, steering column, head position, and head restraints.

Deciding to stop driving is not an easy decision to make but it’s one everyone will have to make some day.

If you’ve decided it’s time to stop driving it doesn’t mean your independence has to stop with it.

Thanks to technology, there are many services catering to seniors to help with daily tasks.

Eldercare Locator

This is a public service of the U.S. Administration which connects the elderly to transportation services, housing options, food, financial assistance and much more.

This can be a low-cost option for many services needed because some of them are run by non-profits. Sort by zip code to see the options for help in your area.

Go Go Grandparent

Even if you do not have a smartphone, there are easy ways to access inexpensive drivers. Go Go Grandparent is available 24/7 and arranges a private driver from Uber or Lyft.

It will connect you to an operator which will watch your rider and offer support. There an additional safety feature which will text your family and give them updates along with your ride.

This service is also available in all 50 states. Sign up online or call 1-855-464-6872.

Papa Pals 

This service is currently only offered in Florida but is expanding to other states in the near future. This service only hires from a small pool of trusted college students which also offers transportation services and other tasks. They will also help you with technology, household chores, companionship and more!

Family & Friends

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a lot of friends and family around to help when we’re aging. If you are graced with a big circle of friends and family, reach out to them for assistance. Many seniors voiced concerns of fearing they may become a burden to their loved ones.

In a survey conducted from Caring for the Ages, they found out that most caregivers do not feel burdened at all.  Consider forming a group of family and friends to offer assistance instead of selecting just 1 or 2 if the help needed involves daily tasks or an abundance of time needing to be spent such as long appointments or grocery shopping.

Overall seniors are considered safe drivers and seem to obey speed limits and don’t drink while driving.

The concern with safe driving for the elderly is the percentage of elderly crashes ending in a fatality.

According to AAA,  seniors are 17 times more likely to get into a fatal crash because they are more fragile and have a higher risk of complications.

As we age, everyone has to make adjustments based on many factors.

Independence can still be attained, it just might have to be thought about differently than before.

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