Kicking aside a habit like getting around in your own vehicle is not easy. However, as you age, you need to be aware of your physical and mental limitations behind the wheel. It isn’t selfish to acknowledge that you cannot drive as well as you used to. According to a study by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “People age 50 and older represent only 24% of the population but account for 35% of traffic fatalities.”
Whether this is your case or that of someone you know, Here are 12 tips for aging drivers to avoid vehicle collisions.
1. Avoid driving in bad weather conditions.
Driving in bad weather (i.e., rain, snow, or fog) can be dangerous. Under these weathers, roads are more slippery than usual, and it becomes harder to see.
This condition poses a more significant threat to the aging driver who might be dealing with visual imparity. If you notice signs of bad weather approaching, It might be better to postpone your trip or take public transportation.
In the case of extremely bad weather conditions, you can ask your local authorities to advise you on what to do.
2. Leave plenty of time for your trip
When you are in a hurry, it is easy to make mistakes that can lead to an accident. Try to leave plenty of time for your trips and errands to avoid this from happening. This includes avoiding peak traffic hours and breaking long trips into smaller segments rather than one long drive.
3. Avoid risky maneuvers or complicated overtaking.
As people age, they become more susceptible to accidents and experience slower reflex times than younger drivers. This has been attributed to a decreased flexibility of the neck and shoulder muscles, poor peripheral vision, and less hearing range.
So, if you notice someone following too closely or driving aggressively around you, don’t try and speed up to lose them because this can increase the likelihood of a collision. Instead, allow them to overtake or find a safe place to park.
4. Take breaks in between long periods of driving.
Older drivers are more likely to get tired while driving. This reduces their concentration levels, putting them at risk of collisions and other accidents. It helps to limit the number of long roads trips you embark on. You can break them up into shorter legs whenever possible.
If you have to take long trips, rest at least 15 minutes for every hour of travel. This will help keep you alert and awake while behind the wheel. If you’re feeling tired, pull over to a safe spot and take a nap. Don’t worry about losing time – chances are you’ll make up for it by arriving safely at your destination!
5. Do not drink and drive
Alcohol is generally an inhibitor that numbs the senses needed to maneuver your vehicle. Older drivers are even more susceptible since their bodies can take longer to metabolize alcohol. More specifically, the older a person gets, the higher the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for that same amount of alcohol. Drinking while driving poses life-threatening risks of danger to the driver, their passengers, and other pedestrians on the street. This is part of the reasons alcohol is considered illegal across many countries.
If you happen to be drunk, do not get behind the wheels. Instead, you can either get your sober friends to drive or call an Uber to pick you up.
Note: Driving under the influence (Dui) is considered a misdemeanor in many states in the U.S. The charge can be upgraded to a felony should a person be killed in the process of DUI. It is irrelevant whether or not the person is a first offender.
6. Avoid driving at night
Driving at night comes with a lot of risks. This is the time of the day when collisions are at their peak. These collisions usually happen due to difficulties resulting from the inability to see incoming cars. The headlights of these cars can appear out of nowhere, making it hard to tell how far away they are or from which direction they’re coming.
Older drivers have trouble with depth perception and peripheral vision, unlike young drivers. And so, the evening provides little opportunity for these drivers to judge distances accurately. This can result in a crash if they fail to swerve out of the way.
To protect your safety on the road, decrease nighttime activity by going on errands during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must drive at night, make sure to use your high beams when appropriate and drive slowly.
7. Eat healthily
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “fatigue is one of the most important causes of traffic accidents.” So, before getting into the car, always eat a healthy meal to decrease fatigue behind the wheel. Before getting onto potentially dangerous roads, eating protein and vegetables could save your life. These nutrients give your body enough energy to avoid roadside crashes.
Avoid the intake of caffeine and alcohol. These substances can lead to fatigue while driving, which is already a common problem for older drivers.
8. Avoid using your phone when driving
This one goes without saying! Not only is it illegal in many states to talk on the phone without a hands-free device while driving, but it also takes our attention away from the road. Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents, and using your phone while behind the wheel is one of the most common distractions.
If you absolutely have to use your phone while driving, navigate the function keys using voice commands. For instance, if you use a smartphone, you can send a prompt command to the digital assistant (i.e., Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Briana, Teneo, etc.). This way, you won’t have to take your hands off the wheel!
9. Get enough sleep
As you age, getting enough sleep is important because the body needs more time to heal and restore itself. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases hormones that produce feelings of anxiety and fear. As a driver, this can have a negative consequence on the road.
It’s best not to get behind the wheel during this period; otherwise, it could lead to dangerous incidents on the road.
10. Be cautious of your surroundings
- Keep your distance. This will allow you to maintain evasive actions in an emergency situation.
- Keep an eye out for pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists.
- Always check both ways for oncoming traffic.
- Respect the traffic signs.
- Stay in the right lane when possible.
If a car blocks your way or tries to seek a confrontation with you, avoid it. Observe if the vehicle is hit or damaged. That will give you an idea if it is a violent driver.
Regardless of your age, you are responsible for what happens while you are driving. It is not worth getting involved in a meaningless aggressive situation.
Ensure that all fluid levels are checked and that tires are correctly inflated. Regularly check the engine oil level and tire pressure. This will help keep your car running smoothly on the road and could potentially prevent an accident from happening.
12. Be especially careful in intersections
Drivers over 65 are involved in twice as many fatal crashes at intersections than any other age group. To prevent the chance of this happening;
- Come to a complete stop every time you enter an intersection.
- Before proceeding through the intersection, look both ways and use caution when making left turns.
- In summary, Aging drivers can take steps to avoid collision by:
- Turning on the headlights when visibility is low or foggy;
- Yielding to pedestrians and bicyclists;
- Mapping out errands before driving;
- Slowing down when approaching intersections;
- Avoiding distraction while driving
- Utilizing car mirrors to their best ability;
- Staying aware of their surroundings; and
- Take regular breaks while driving.
Applying these tips will help keep older drivers safe and help prevent younger drivers from getting into accidents.