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June 17, 2015

How to Keep Driving Safely as You Age

Knowledge is power!

You may hear people say younger drivers are better than older ones, but that’s not necessarily the case. This USA Today article shares some pretty interesting statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that indicate the safest drivers are those aged 64 to 69 — which clearly contradicts the idea younger drivers are safer on the road.

Or you may hear people say when you reach a certain age, you should stop driving. Well, as HelpGuide.org points out, everyone ages differently, and there is “no arbitrary cutoff” as to when you should stop driving. The reality is increasing numbers of people drive regularly well into their 70s — and beyond. In 1990, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, only 66 percent of Americans aged 70 or older maintained their driver’s licenses. That increased to 74 percent by 2000, and 84 percent by 2009.

Finally, you may hear people cite accident statistics for aging drivers. In that case, you could refer them to an article by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that indicates a combination of safer vehicles and healthier older adults has led to steadily decreasing accident rates for aging drivers.

These studies help point to the conclusion that aging does not automatically mean your driving days should end. Just like any other decision in life, it needs to be made based on your individual health situation and your personal circumstances, not simply on your age. Plus, there are strategies that can help you keep driving safely. Here are some of them.

Helpguide.org offers tips to help keep you in the best driving shape possible. These include:

  • Getting your annual eye exam
  • Keeping the windshield, mirrors, and headlights clean on your car
  • Turning up the brightness on the dashboard’s instrument panel
  • Getting an annual hearing exam
  • Talking to your doctor about what else makes sense for you, in order to stay in good shape for driving, including management of chronic conditions
  • Sleeping well

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other tips include:

  • Exercising regularly to boost strength and flexibility
  • Working with  your doctor to make sure side effects from your medicines aren’t impairing your ability to drive
  • Driving during the daytime and in good weather
  • Choosing routes with well-lit streets, left turn arrows at intersections and so forth
  • Keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you
  • Avoiding distractions, such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, and eating while driving.

We also want to share a tip from the Mayo Clinic that could apply to drivers in just about any age demographic: Consider taking a driving refresher course! These courses are usually offered through a local community education program, and you might even earn a discount on your car insurance by taking this course.

Car Shopping Tips

Finally, if it’s time to shop for a new car, keep your needs in mind. Choose a model with a proven safety record (look at safercar.gov and iihs.org/ratings for information) and, as Car Shopping Tips for Older Drivers suggests, these particular features are typically useful:

  • Dynamic stability control
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Adjustable head restraints
  • Side and dual-stage/threshold airbags
  • Six-way adjustable power seats
  • Low door thresholds
  • Large rear windows
  • Wide-angle mirrors to minimize blind spots

Be sure to read the entire article before shopping. It will be worth your time!

As long as you can still do so safely, there is no reason you should stop driving once you’ve reached a certain age. Advances in car technology as well as taking the above steps to ensure you have a safe vehicle and are in good health can help you remain safe on the road for years to come. 

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