How To Safely Navigate Driving After 60

Although many of us could choose to cruise around town by bike, bus or even train, most of us opt for the independence of a car. However, as you get older, driving can become more difficult and in some cases, more dangerous.

Of course, a person’s ability to drive isn’t based on age alone. But with age comes change. This can include changes to vision, physical fitness, problem-solving abilities and reflexes—all of which can impact driving. So, how do you know if it’s safe to keep driving after 60? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common challenges individuals over 60 face and some simple tips to keep driving safe.

Vision & Hearing:

Among the most common age-related changes that can affect your driving is vision. As people age, they may experience a reduction in their field of vision. Additionally, it becomes more difficult for eyes to adjust and focus on different objects.

This is especially true at night as your eyes are trying to continually recover from the glare of headlights. Some of the most common vision problems that can impact driving ability include: cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma.

Another common age-related change that can affect your driving is your hearing. Good hearing allows drivers to hear sirens and horns, as well as have the ability to know what is happening around them.

Physical Fitness:

As you age, it may become more difficult to control a car because of a decrease in muscle strength, coordination and flexibility. Arthritis or physical pain also can limit driving abilities. This includes being able to fully turn your head to look for traffic or operate a car with a manual transmission.

Decreased Reaction Time & Attention:

Driving requires dividing your attention among many activities and being able to react quickly. As you age, reaction time decreases, which can be especially dangerous when it comes to driving.

Furthermore, a decline in vision and hearing may also make quick reactions and responses more difficult. One common cause behind decreased reaction time is medication; it can also cause a decrease in alertness, attention and concentration.

Staying Safe:

  • Follow the laws of the road. Focus on staying in your lane and try to drive with the flow of traffic. While driving too fast is dangerous, driving too slow can also be just as dangerous.
  • Buckle up. Fasten your seat belt and insist that your passengers do the same. Wearing your seat belt can help prevent serious injuries, especially in the event of a crash.
  • Concentrate on your driving. Keep the radio volume low, don't smoke, eat, drink or use a cell phone, this will help you avoid distractions while you’re driving. When talking to passengers, make sure to keep your eyes on the road.
  • Watch for other cars. Glance at your mirrors often and always look behind you when reversing or changing lanes.
  • Turn with caution. Always use your turn signal and don't rush. Make turns only when you have a clear view of oncoming traffic and are sure you can turn safely. Then turn as slowly as necessary to stay in your lane.
  • Know your limits. Try to avoid driving situations that make you uncomfortable. For example, if night driving becomes difficult, don't drive at night. Or, if you do not like driving fast, driving in a lot of traffic, or driving in bad weather, try to plan ahead to avoid these situations.
  • Pull over. If you encounter a situation that makes you uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to pull off the road. This will give you time to regroup and call someone for assistance if needed.
  • Brush up on your skills. AARP's Driver Safety Program is a refresher course for drivers age 50 and older. This course provides helpful refreshers about the importance about defensive driving.
  • See your doctor. Seeing your primary care doctor routinely may be the secret to safe driving after 60. Your doctor can help you prevent and treat some of the most common conditions that impact driving capability. From health information and prevention to diagnosis and treatment, Gwinnett Medical Group Primary Care is dedicated to providing you with comprehensive care for all of your unique health needs. 

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