It is inevitable that our driving abilities will change as we get older. For many elderly people, driving is a lifeline, but it is vital that attention is paid to any signs that may indicate problems.
An elderly person may well be a more careful and attentive driver than a recently qualified teenager but there are several age-related factors which can affect driving. Sight and hearing problems are common in older age groups and reflexes can get slower. Your strength might be reduced along with your co-ordination skills. Older people are also more likely to suffer from chronic conditions which may affect driving.
Many older people are resistant to the idea that they may not be as capable behind the wheel as they once were. However it is vital that they realise that their ability has changed and act accordingly. Getting older does not necessarily mean giving up driving, but it is only sensible to be aware of any changes. There are many ways to stay on the road after a certain age – for example, an automatic car with power steering and brakes requires less strength to drive. It is important to be realistic and accept that long journeys or night driving may not be the best idea any more.
You need to check your vehicle insurance information to ensure your policy is adequate for your age and any health conditions you may have. There are a number of insurers who specialise in mature drivers. As your application for insurance is likely to become more complicated as you advance in years, it makes sense to consult an expert familiar with age-related driving issues.
Every older driver should have regular eye and hearing tests. Having a chat with your GP can be useful and you can check whether any of your prescribed medications could have an effect on your driving. Your GP will be able to check your reflexes and refer you for further tests if they are concerned.
Keeping your car clean – particularly the windscreen and mirrors – will improve visibility. Make sure that you keep your car serviced and get minor problems fixed as soon as you notice them.
If you have been driving for years, it is a good idea to take some refresher lessons to make sure you are up to date with current driving best practice. Remember your stopping distances, especially in wet conditions and stay safely within the speed limit. If you are setting out on an unfamiliar journey, good planning is the key. To minimise stress, always map out your route before setting off.
Finally, know your limitations. If you feel unsafe on the road, then you need to face up to the fact that it may be time to retire from motoring. If you find certain aspects of driving stressful, such as motorway driving, or travelling after dark – just don’t do it. Remember that there are always other transport options available and there is no point in putting both yourself and other road users at risk.
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