Seven Senior Safety Suggestions
Senior drivers have driving experience, which is a big advantage when it comes to highway safety. Still, you need to be able to adapt to changes in traffic laws, equipment, skills, and even other vehicles on the road. Consider these seven safety suggestions as tips to help you in your driving:
1. Avoid Nighttime Driving
In your late thirties, your eyesight begins to age. You might find yourself needing glasses for reading and also for night driving. When the sun goes down, the roads get dark and the glare from other headlights can make it hard to see beyond your dash. Travel with an alert passenger to help you scan for driving hazards.
Beyond decreased night vision, a more severe danger lurks in the shadows. Fatigue is a serious and underestimated safety hazard. If you are tired, even feeling just a little sleepy, you need to get off the road. Better yet, avoid the risk of fatigue by running your errands during the day.
2. Take a Driver Course
You may feel out of place in a driver education course with dozens of teens; what first-time drivers need to learn is not really what you need. A mature driver's course is geared toward seniors and usually covers topics like pedestrians, yielding, four-way stops, and lane changes.
Socially, you may enjoy spending time with other senior drivers. As for the learning endeavor, we often learn more from other students―in this case, seniors―than we do from instructors. You'll have to find a mature driving course in your area. A good place to start is with retirement or travel associations.
3. Skip the Heavy Traffic
Common sense tells you to avoid heavy traffic; regardless, who wants to be stuck on the highway during rush hour. Inevitably, you will find yourself in heavy traffic because you have an appointment you can't miss. Be confident because you can deal with heavy traffic if you prepare yourself.
Pack your patience; getting anxious and exasperated will only increase your risk of an accident. Always use signals and warn other drivers in advance of what you are planning to do. Prepare for exits and turns by getting into the proper lane and signalling early.
You can also learn alternate routes so that when you do have to venture out during rush hour or holiday weekends, you can avoid heavy traffic.
4. Do a Warm-Up
If there is one overall theme for driver safety, it is preparedness. You inspect your vehicle before starting the engine and you plan your trip before hitting the highway. You will find it helpful and refreshing to warm up your body before sitting in the driver's seat because your body and mind can become stressed when driving.
To warm up your body, stretch your neck, torso, and shoulders. Try rotating your torso, bending your chin to your chest, and pressing your shoulders toward your back. Gentle stretching will improve your range of motion, help fight off fatigue, and reduce tension.
5. Prepare to Share the Road
When you are focusing intently on your driving, it is easy to ignore other vehicles on the road. You can avoid accidents by watching for pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, and horses.
Recreational use of highways has never been more popular. Your challenge is to stay focused while scanning continuously for people running, walking dogs, rollerblading, or skateboarding.
As you plan for your trip, spend a few moments thinking about who you are likely to see on the road―kids walking to school, off-road vehicles crossing the road, vehicles pulling trailers, and even horseback riders.
6. Think When Selecting an Instrument Panel
It is easy to be dazzled by the new car models designed with the most modern technology. The instrument panel is how you interface with your vehicle; select an instrument model that is easy for you to read.
Some instrument panels bombard you with information that isn't important to the safe operation of the car. In fact, the fancy panels can even demand your attention while you are trying to concentrate on your driving. Choose an instrument panel that appeals to you, and don't be seduced by flashing LEDs and talking dashboards.
7. Steer Clear of Distractions
The instrument panel is not the only distraction for you while driving. Some drivers find conversation a distraction―have you ever missed a turn because you were deep in discussion? Anything that takes your eyes off the road, even for a second, is a distraction.
If you need further incentive to resist using the cellular phone or checking a map, research your state vehicle code because some states now have driver distraction laws with serious consequences.
You can even distract yourself by worrying or pondering other distracting thoughts. When you catch your mind wandering, you need to refocus. For example, pull over and do some warm-up exercises to put your mind and muscles back on track.
As you age, you'll have to deal with a lot of changes. Because driving is so important to you and also inherently dangerous, it is important to learn new ways to stay safe. If these safety tips help you, be sure to tell a friend. After all, highway safety is everyone's responsibility.
Resources and Additional Reading
Read more about senior road safety and transportation at SeniorDriving.AAA.com and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.