You've probably been driving for decades, which can be a benefit; experience matters on the road. But time behind the wheel can lead to ingrained bad habits, too. You also may not notice when your skills are diminishing. Here are some ways to remain a safe driver.
1. Get refitted
Are you sitting the appropriate distance from the steering wheel? Are your mirrors adjusted properly? Would elevating your seat help you see traffic better? You've probably been driving a certain way in your car for long enough that you don't recognize bad habits. Attend a free virtual workshop from CarFit, an educational program created in collaboration with AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). In 90 minutes, CarFit instructors will show you how to take proper measurements to improve your visibility and vehicle control. Sign up for a workshop at car-fit.org.
2. Keep your body fit
You may be sitting, but driving can be a physically demanding activity. There is a reason race car drivers train like athletes or why we often feel exhausted after a commute through heavy traffic. “Staying active is a really good thing to do because it reinforces that mind-and-body connection,” says Sarah Pearcy, a certified self-assessment facilitator for older drivers. “It helps with your balance and your strength.” Be sure to keep up, or boost, your fitness routine. A good guideline is to get 30 minutes of light cardio or resistance strength exercise per day.
3. End the multitasking
If you've been driving for many decades, you may feel you can do it without thinking. And so you may fuss with your phone, play DJ, drink coffee, tinker with the navigation system or get into deep conversations while still driving. All of these put you at greater risk of accidents, particularly as your reaction time and overall vision decrease. Older drivers take their eyes off the road for eight seconds longer than younger drivers when adjusting or tapping on the navigation system, AAA researchers found. “There are no super multitaskers,” says Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety and advocacy for AAA. “Somebody who is over 65 and exposed to the same distractions will struggle more with managing that distraction.” Every day, eight people are killed in car crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Make a conscious effort to focus more on the road and less on everything else.