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February 03, 2015

Staying Safe on the Road: Older Adults Behind the Wheel

There’s a certain stigma that comes with getting older and driving a car. You’ve probably heard the expression, “driving like a granny” or heard people complain that, “he’s too old to be behind the wheel.” However, with the right awareness and precautions in place, continuing to drive as you age doesn’t have to be the punch line of a joke. You can retain your independence behind the wheel—stigma or no stigma.

While safety on the road is important for all ages, there are some undeniable facts about driving as an older adult. For starters, the risk of having an accident increases as you age, with an average of 500 older adults injured every day in car crashes.  That doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up your keys just yet. There are several steps you can take to ensure continuing to drive is a smart and safe choice.

  • Keep your body healthy with nutritious food and regular exercise. Staying active improves your strength, flexibility, and reaction time—all of which can help keep you safe on the road.
  • Have your eyes checked regularly. If you need corrective lenses, make sure you always wear them when you drive. Your vision is likely to decline as you age, so staying on top of your appointments can help you avoid a potential problem.
  • If you’re on medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects you might need to watch out for. The same goes for your over-the-counter medication. For instance, if you know taking a certain medication makes you drowsy and fatigued, you might want to wait until the side effects wear off to get behind the wheel.
  • Practice the same basic safe driving that’s recommended for everyone: wear your seatbelt, don’t talk on your cellphone, and leave a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you.
  • Choose optimal driving conditions when possible. If it’s after dark and raining, consider putting off optional travel until the weather improves.

As difficult as it can be to admit, aging can affect your driving. However, the difference between being safe behind the wheel and taking unnecessary risks can boil down to simple awareness. Knowing your risk factors and choosing to be proactive can give you the option of staying behind the wheel longer.

Keeping your brain sharp and healthy is another great way to stay safe on the road. Download our free eBook, “Keeping Your Brain Healthy As You Get Older” for tips on maintaining or improving your cognitive function.Keeping Your Brain Healthy eBook


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