Back to

Age is just a number on the open road. More than 45 million Americans aged 65 and older are licensed drivers. Driving is essential to keeping an older driver independent and happy.

Yet crash rates do increase for older Americans. If you want to stay safe as you get older, you need to follow some driver safety tips.

What should you do every time you drive? What are some substances you should avoid before driving? What are tools you can use to improve your safety?

Answer these questions and you can hit the road well into your golden years. Here is your quick guide.

Wear a Seatbelt 

Seatbelts saved almost 15,000 lives in 2017. All drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts, including seniors.

You should put your seatbelt on before you start driving. Make sure it fits snugly across your waist and chest. You should be able to buckle and unbuckle the belt with minimal effort.

If your seatbelt becomes tangled, you should try to untangle it. Wait until your car comes to a red light or pull your car to the side of the road. Fix the tangle while your seatbelt remains fastened.

Plan Your Route

Before you go out for your drive, figure out where you want to go. Then use a GPS to figure out what the shortest possible route is. It is okay to take a longer route if you want to avoid unsafe areas, including highways.

Don’t just ask for directions and follow them as they appear on your screen. Take a look at the route your GPS is planning for you. This lets you figure out alternate routes if road conditions get bad.

You should also figure out how long it will take for you to drive to your location. If you need to take medication while you are out, bring it with you. Figure out a place where you can stop your car and take your dosage.

Do Not Drive While Distracted

You must remain focused in order to remain safe. Remove all distractions from your car, including electronic devices. You can have a radio, but change the stations while your vehicle is stopped.

Never drink and drive. Even one alcoholic beverage can impair your coordination and vision. Wait a few hours until after you have had a drink to drive.

You should also learn how to use medications safely. Many of them can induce drowsiness or blurred vision, which can limit your driving safety. Take them after you go on the road.

Do not talk or text on your cell phone. Some states allow you to use a hands-free device to talk to people. But having a conversation can be distracting, so you should wait until your car is stopped to talk.

If you have passengers, try to limit your conversations with them. Conversations with passengers can be as distracting as conversations over the phone. Keep your eyes on the road and do not turn toward your passengers.

Get New Car Tools

Many modern cars contain tools that help drivers remain safe on the road. Try to find a car that contains a few of them.

Forward collision warning will let you know if you are about to crash. The warning system will enable the brakes when a car’s computer determines a crash is imminent. Automatic crash communication technology will signal the emergency services automatically after an accident.

Some vehicles have self-parking systems. A system can steer the car so it can park parallel to the street. These systems are helpful if you live in a city and rely on street-side parking.

Several companies are developing automation that controls most or all aspects of driving. But automated vehicles are uncommon and expensive. You should plan on driving yourself for the near future, though automated vehicles may be available in a few years.

Test Your Vision and Hearing

It is essential that you preserve your vision and hearing. If you have a vision problem, get treatment for it right away.

If you don’t have a vision or hearing problem, you should be vigilant. Get eye and ear exams every year, if not more often. Go to your doctor right away if you experience a chronic symptom like ringing in your ears.

Your doctor may recommend that you limit your driving to daylight hours. You should follow their advice. Accidents are more frequent at night, as it is easy to miss hazardous road conditions.

The signs that someone cannot drive safely include missing roadside objects and being unable to hear sirens. The loved ones of seniors should step forward and encourage them to stop driving. They can offer to give them rides instead.

Know Your Limitations

Every driver has their limits. Some people cannot drive for long periods of time without becoming bored or tired. Other people find it difficult to execute certain maneuvers like wide turns.

Recognize what your limitations as a driver are. Then adjust how you drive.

Many older drivers struggle with gripping the steering wheel. You can make the wheel more comfortable by placing a cover over it.

Other drivers have trouble reading the dials on their dashboards. You can find a vehicle with larger dials or you can install lights behind them so they are easier to read.

Drive Safe as an Older Driver

As you become an older driver, you need to be mindful. You must wear a seatbelt every time you drive. You should look at a GPS or map and find a short route to your destination.

Never drive after you have had alcohol or strong medications. Minimize distractions, including conversations with passengers.

You can find a car with tools like a self-parking system. Protect your vision and hearing with regular tests from your doctor. Adjust to your limitations and don’t overexert yourself.

Don’t hold off on medical help, and be sure to talk to your primary care physician if  you have any concerns.