Safe Driving for Seniors
More than 41,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes each year and 2 million suffer disabling injuries, according to the National Safety Council. While older drivers have the benefit of years of driving experience, which lends itself to good judgment, age-related declines in vision, hearing, and reaction times can create safety hazards.
Night driving, for example, can be challenging for all drivers, but especially seniors. Why? Ninety percent of a driver’s reaction depends on vision, and vision is severely limited at night. Depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision are compromised, especially in older drivers. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as 30-year-old.
To minimize after-dark dangers, the National Safety Council recommends these steps:
- Clean your headlights often and make sure they are properly aimed.
- If in doubt, turn your headlights on. Lights will not help you see better in early twilight, but it will make it easier for others to see you. Being seen is as important as seeing.
- Reduce your speed and increase your “following” distances. It is harder to judge other vehicle’s speeds and distances at night.
- When following another vehicle, keep your headlights on low beam.
- If an oncoming vehicle does not lower its beams from high to low, avoid glare by watching the right edge of the road and using it as a steering guide.
- Make frequent stops; don’t drive when fatigued.
Night driving isn’t the only challenge for seniors. Sometimes just being in a high-traffic area can make you nervous. It’s natural to slow down, but remember that driving below the speed limit creates hazards as well. If you cannot safely maintain the minimum designated speed, you should choose a less traveled route.
- Drive defensively, keeping an eye on the other drivers around you.
- In the rain, drive slowly and carefully, especially on curves, and steer and brake with a light touch. If you skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas and carefully steer in the direction you want the car to go.
- Don’t drink and drive. Alcohol not only impairs your driving ability but also acts as a depressant. Just one drink can cause fatigue.
- Don’t talk on a cell phone while driving. Pull off the road to accept or make a call.
- Slow down in work zones.
- If you have car trouble, pull off the road promptly.
- Wear your seat belt at all times.
In addition to these tips, you might want to consider attending an AARP 55 Alive Driving Refresher Course. These are offered across the country at various locations. This eight-hour class reviews with you the rules of the road and what you need to be more aware of as an “older driver”.
The cost of the class is $10. Several Auto Insurance companies will give discounts to their clients who participate in one of these classes. Check with your auto insurance company.
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