For many of us, driving is a significant part of our lives—playing an essential role in some of life’s biggest milestones. Riding to prom with your high school sweetheart; driving away from your wedding in a whirlwind, the “Just Married” sign in your rearview mirror; driving home from the hospital with a tiny new life, triple-checking the car seat at every stoplight.
No matter how valuable driving is, it’s often something that is overlooked and taken for granted. Like many things, we never grasp how important it is until we realize we may not be able to safely do it anymore. Certain health conditions and physical limitations can make it challenging to operate a vehicle safely as individuals age. These changes don’t have to stop you from driving altogether, though!
Brickmont Assisted Living has assisted living and memory care communities in Atlanta, and we want to share some driving aids and strategies to keep seniors driving (safely) for as long as possible!
Get Annual Vision and Hearing Tests
It’s not uncommon for senses to decline with age; unfortunately, it can impact the ability to drive safely. Vision and hearing problems can limit the ability to hear and see emergency vehicles, other cars, and any other unexpected roadblocks.
By scheduling regular vision and hearing tests, you can stay on top of your health and ensure that you are cleared to drive safely.
Manage Medications Properly
Many medications—including cold remedies, allergy medication, and antidepressants—can have the unintended side effects of drowsiness and disorientation, impacting the ability to drive safely. Even if you take all your medications as prescribed, it’s also essential to check the labels, so you know what to expect and can plan your drives accordingly.
Keep Your Car in Good Condition
A driver is only as safe as their car is! Scheduling routine maintenance on your vehicle can keep it in optimal condition and prevent any significant failures while you’re driving. Some regular preventative steps to consider include:
- Change the Oil
- Maintain Tire Pressure
- Check Lights (Interior and Exterior)
- Rotate Tires
- Change the Air Filters
- Check the Brakes
While most people associate “texting and driving” as the new danger, driving while distracted by anything is dangerous. To be as safe as possible while on the road, limit any distractions that may arise. Before you start driving, avoid eating, put away your phone, set the radio to what you want, have your directions ready, and handle anything else that may come up so you can focus entirely on the road!
Utilize Driving Aids
Several driving and safety aids are available that can make driving easy, safer, and more comfortable. Some of the aids are specific to seniors or those with physical limitations, but others are general and can assist anyone from new to seasoned drivers.
Vehicle Support Handle
This removable handlebar fits into most car doors and allows the driver (or passenger) to boost themselves out of the vehicle easily. This portable tool also features a window breaker and seatbelt cutter.
Seat Belt Puller
This convenient, easy-to-install tool helps individuals with limited mobility reach their seatbelt and pull it toward them.
Rearview Mirror Extender
A panoramic rearview mirror extender offers a broader view of blind spots and can help adults who have trouble rotating their neck or torso. A back-up camera can be helpful for this too.
These systems, which are available in most newer cars, will warn you and automatically apply the brakes if it detects a crash. This new technology is believed to reduce accidents by up to 20%.
This is also a relatively new technology that helps guide drivers as they park, and in some cases, even parks the vehicle for them. These systems can help prevent collisions, as well.
Know Your Limitations
Even though you may feel somewhat confident driving, it’s okay to know your limitations and comfort levels. For example, maybe you know you can’t drive at night, so you only go during the day or you don’t feel comfortable driving on the highway, so you find alternative routes.
Staying where you feel comfortable and not pushing yourself is crucial in maintaining safety on the road.
Hit the Road
For many, getting older doesn’t always mean having to give up driving. With new assistive technologies and other driving aids for seniors, driving safely is easier than ever. Of course, it’s always safest to know your abilities and limitations so that you can protect yourself and others while on the road.