Safety Tips for Driving as an Older Adult
Having the freedom to venture out by car gives people a sense of independence which is particularly rewarding in later life. It can act as a shining pillar of stability in amongst the whirlwind of rapid change that follows retirement. However, it is easy to lose confidence with driving as you age, and physical deterioration makes it increasingly difficult over time.
Keep yourself confident in the driving seat for as long as possible by following these safety tips for driving as an older adult.
Driving at an older age
There is no upper age limit when it comes to driving a car in the UK, and many people continue to drive well into their later years. The only legal stipulation is that drivers must renew their licence at 70, and then every three years following the initial renewal.
Continuing to drive ensures that you keep full flexibility with your lifestyle rather than being reliant on limiting public transport. This enables you to carry on with your favourite leisure activities and makes it easier to do essential household jobs such as shopping, to taking rubbish to the tip.
Many older drivers will also have the responsibility of looking after grandchildren which is made much easier by having a car. It is beneficial to have a family-friendly vehicle with plenty of space to accommodate car seats and pushchairs. Cost-effective second-hand options are widely available.
When browsing models, prioritise comfort and reliability – respected German cars such as a used BMW 1 series, Mercedes A class, or Volkswagen Golf are likely to fit your needs. You may also want to try changing from a manual to an automatic car for more simple, less stressful driving. Having the right vehicle for later life driving will help to keep you safe and steady on the road for longer.
What can affect driving ability as you age?
The reason behind the three-year renewal process is to keep track of any changes to your health. Certain conditions and medications must be reported to the DVLA as these can impact upon your ability to drive and make you unsafe behind the wheel.
Common health conditions that affect driving include:
- Arthritis and other conditions that cause stiff joints – this limits mobility and response time
- Deteriorating eyesight – this prevents you from clearly identifying signage and hazards
- Loss of hearing – being able to hear horns and sirens is essential in emergency situations
- Dementia and other memory loss conditions – this can impact upon decision-making skills
Some prescribed medications can cause drowsiness and light-headedness which will slow your reaction time and increase your risk of being in an accident.
Top tips for safer driving
While there will come a time when you have to stop driving, there are things you can do to prolong the process and give you peace of mind in your abilities.
If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor. They will be able to conduct a medical assessment and advise accordingly. Regular check-ups for your eyes and ears are especially important, and make sure to wear your glasses and any hearing aids when driving if you need them.
Staying physically fit will also help you with your driving. Stronger muscles and bones mean that you can drive for longer periods without your limbs getting tired and will help to keep joints mobile.
Increasingly, you may find driving at certain times of the day or in particular conditions to be challenging. Plan your routes in advance to avoid busy journeys and the danger of getting lost on unknown roads. If vision is a problem, don’t drive in the early morning or at dusk. Use well-lit roads at night or stick to daytime driving.
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