For most Americans, driving is such a regular part of everyday life that we
don’t think twice about slipping behind the wheel. Years in the driver’s seat
give us a lot of valuable experience, but there’s a downside, too: as we age,
our risk of getting in car accidents goes up.
Road safety analysts predict that by 2030, when the last of the baby boomers
has turned 65, seniors will be responsible for 25 percent of fatal car crashes.
Here’s what you can do to stay safe:
Listen to Your Body. Aches and pains can impair your driving ability, but sometimes you can mitigate
them with simple adjustments. Do your hands ache from gripping the steering wheel? Try a padded steering wheel
cover. Does your back hurt during longer trips? Get an orthopedic seat cushion.
Test Your Eyes and Ears. Today, 6.5 million Americans over age 65 suffer from severe vision loss,
according to the CDC. Any changes to vision and hearing can make driving dangerous. Visit your doctor for regular
check-ups to make sure your eyes and ears are in tip-top shape.
Consider a New Car. Many older adults find that a vehicle with large mirrors and dashboard
gauges, and that is easy to get in and out of, makes driving a lot more comfortable. Check out CarFit, a service offered
by AAA that tests your vehicle to find out if it’s ideal for you.
Stay Physically Active. Regular exercise can help keep your body performing well behind the
wheel. Try yoga to improve your flexibility and strengthen your core for comfortable long drives, and light weight
lifting to keep your arms from getting tired.
Drive Only in Good Weather. 17 percent of car crash fatalities occur during bad weather,
according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Road Weather Management Program. Stay off the road when the
weather is inclement, and you’ll lower your chances of getting in a crash.
Limit Distractions. AAA estimates that 25 to 30 percent of all accidents are caused by a distracted driver.To
keep from being one of them, get settled before you press the gas pedal: choose your radio station, and adjust your mirrors
and seat. If you’re using directions, make sure you’ve printed out and reviewed them beforehand, or if you have a GPS, enter
your destination before you start driving. Put your cell phone in the back seat to keep yourself from answering calls or texts.
Know Your Medications. Some medications can cause drowsiness, which can lead to accidents.
Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects. If you’re not supposed to operate a vehicle while
taking your medication, don’t.
Take a Refresher Course. If you had to take a high-school biology test now, how well would you
do? It’s been that long since you’ve learned the rules of the road, so consider updating your driving skills in a local or
online class. Some insurance companies will even lower their premiums if you do. See this AAA website to find a class.