Many of us remain up-to-date on the rules of the road and new car technologies, but sometimes we don't realize we need to adapt to our changing bodies, too. Whether its achy joints, poor hearing or slow reaction times, physical and mental health changes can become obstacles to safe driving.
"We want all the drivers, whether they're old or young, to be safe on the road,” says Dana Plude, deputy director of the National Institute on Aging's (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research, which offers a safety guide for older drivers.
Addressing these age-related health issues can help you stay safe on the road.
Reflexes and reaction times
Age can bring slower reflexes (or slower involuntary reaction times). Voluntary reaction times may also become impaired, since attention spans can get shorter, making it harder to multitask. How to cope:
- Leave more space between your vehicle and the car in front of you.
- Brake early when you need to stop.
- Avoid heavy traffic areas or rush hour when possible.
- On a freeway or highway, drive on the right-hand lane where traffic is slower and you will have more time to make a driving decision.
A huge leap in safety has arrived with automatic braking systems, now in most new cars, that detect when a car nears an object and brake before a driver even presses the pedal.
Medications and awareness
Drivers on certain medications can become drowsy or light-headed.
- Read drug labels carefully and look for any potential side effects that might affect your driving (drowsiness, blurred vision, slowed movement, fainting, inability to focus, nausea, excitability).
- Make a list of all your medicines and ask your doctor how they may affect your driving.
- Don't drive if you feel dizzy or light-headed.