| Tue, Sep 02, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

How Old is Too Old? Safety Tips for Drivers Ages 65+

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

senior drivingHave you been told, “You’re too old to drive” by a family member, a friend, your doctor, or even a complete stranger? Just how old is “too old” to drive?

Adults age 65 and over account for more than one in seven drivers on U.S. roadways.  By 2030, older drivers will account for as many as one in four U.S. drivers and substantially more in many rural and retirement communities.1 Since these adults need to be mobile to maintain their health and overall well-being, it’s safe to assume that if they can drive, they will drive.

Although older adults are usually safe drivers, many choose to avoid freeways and limit their driving to surface streets, their immediate neighborhoods, and daylight hours. If you’re not ready to give up the car keys, yet you have some concerns with your driving abilities, there are a few things you can do that may help make you a safer driver.

Take a Driver Assessment or Course

One way to test your driving skills is to take a driving assessment. Information for test sites can usually be found in community or senior centers, through community education courses or senior rehabilitation centers.  You can also check into DriveSharp, an online brain training program offered by The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The American Automobile Association’s (AAA) new RoadWise Driver course for seniors may also be an option. The course offers classes in an online or classroom setting.

Keep Your Mind Sharp

Build up your brain through a variety of challenging activities, such as learning a new language, taking classes, playing crossword puzzles, word puzzles or anything that challenges the mind.

Keep Your Body Fit and Flexible

Staying fit doesn’t mean training for a marathon. Just about any exercise program will do. There’s no need to set aside a full 30- to 60-minute block of time per day. Physical activity for 5 or 10 minutes several times a day goes a long way toward staying fit. Staying fit and flexible permits you to move your entire body quickly and easily in all directions. This improves your ability to view the road and the areas around your car—alerting you to potential hazards.

Find the Right Vehicle for You

To help older adults know what to look for in a vehicle, AAA worked with the University of Florida Institute for Mobility, Activity, and Participation to help identify smart features for older drivers. They recommend you consider the following criteria when choosing a vehicle:

  • Safety: Seat belts and the locations and types of airbags.
  • Ergonomics: Accessories like adjustable pedals and seats to reduce driver discomfort.
  • Comfort: Ease of entry and exit, leg room and size of control buttons.
  • Value: Total cost of ownership including price, operating and maintenance costs, reliability, fuel economy and resale value.

Maintain Your Vehicle

Read your owner’s manual and follow the maintenance schedules designed for your vehicle. Check the tire air pressure, oil and fluids levels, and make sure you have plenty of gas before setting out. Do a visual inspection of the windshield wipers, mirrors and other accessories on a regular basis.

Fit Your Vehicle with Assistive Devices

As you get older, you may not be able to see or move around as you once did. You may not be as strong. You may even be a bit shorter. These types of changes can affect your performance and safety when you drive your car. You need to be able to reach the pedals and see out the windshield and use the mirrors to operate the vehicle safely. Sometimes, just turning the ignition key can be a problem. Don’t try to fix these issues with things you have at home, like pillows and wooden blocks. There are special adaptive devices available on the market that you may find helpful, such as key extenders, swivel seat cushions, special mirrors, pedal extenders and steering wheel hand controls.

Stay safe and enjoy the drive!

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Resources:

Meeting Transportation Needs in an Aging-Friendly Community: AARP.org

Better Options For Older Adults: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

Rules of the Road for Safe Driving: MedicareMadeClear.com

1 AARP.org: AARP Livable Communities, May 14, 2013

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