The fitness of your mind and body must work hand in hand in order to drive safely. Follow these tips in order to keep yourself sharp, healthy, and prepared to drive.
As you probably already know, the use of vision is key to all aspects of driving, but you may not realize how complex vision actually is. Good far and near vision is needed to identify road hazards, read signs and view your dashboard.
Visual acuity is how clearly or accurately you can see. There are many conditions that affect visual acuity, especially as we age. Here are a few vision conditions to keep an eye out for:
- Color Blindness & Cataracts—may cause problems when identifying traffic signals or brake lights of other cars while driving.
- Decreased Contrast Sensitivity—the visual ability to see objects that are not outlined clearly or do not stand out from their background.
- Difficulty seeing pedestrians and road signs, especially in poorly lit roads or in fog.
- Decreased Useful Field of View—refers to the amount of visual information that can be processed in a brief glance using both eyes.
- Ability to process information slows with age, particularly for situations in which the environment is very complex, e.g., a busy roadway.
- Decreased Depth Perception & Peripheral Vision— the ability to judge the distance of objects in relation to ourselves and the ability to see outside your immediate field of view.
- Both tend to decrease with age and are essential in everyday driving situations, such as judging the distance and speed of approaching cars when merging or seeing a car approaching you from either side.
With that in mind, it is incredibly important to get regular eye exams to keep you sharp and ready for the road.
Over time, we can lose the ability to quickly assess and react appropriately to the demands of driving. From something as simple as fatigue to memory loss to something as complex as Alzheimer’s, our brain health and overall mental well-being are crucial to the task of driving.
Your ability to carry out the following processes should be gauged in assessing your driving fitness:
- Attention and reaction time
- Concentration (paying attention to changes in your driving environment)
- Ability to process information quickly and accurately
- Problem-solving skills (how to get help if you have a flat tire)
- Memory (how to get to the doctor’s office)
Stimulate your brain by trying new activities. Try testing your memory and problem-solving skills; it can be something as simple as taking a new route to a familiar location. A study by the National Institute of Health recently found that people who had cognitive training for memory, reasoning or speed of processing had 50% fewer car accidents than those in the control group.
Driving is a demanding activity that requires your full attention to many things at the same time. Eliminate distractions inside the vehicle and minimize activities that require you to take your eyes off the road or take both hands off the wheel, especially in heavy traffic.
- Put your cellphone on silent and tuck it away so you are not tempted to answer a text or phone call while driving.
- Try presetting your radio with your favorite radio stations—you won’t have to look away from the road to change the station.
- Refrain from eating, drinking and smoking while driving.
These important tips will keep you sharp and ready to drive! Driving is demanding, so take measures to ensure good vision, brain health, and reduce distractions while on the road.
For more tips and important information to keep you safe on the road, consider taking the AARP Smart Driver™ course available in a classroom and online, in both English and Spanish. In some states, you may even be eligible for a multi-year insurance discount upon completion of the course.* For more information, visit www.aarpdriversafety.org/ or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).
*The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Please consult your insurance agent for further details.
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