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Friday March 1, 2024

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Driving Safety Tips

What safety tips can you recommend for older drivers? My elderly parent had a fender bender last month and I worry about their safety.

As the number of Americans driving past their 70s increases, there are a variety of things to do to help maintain or improve your parent’s driving skills. Here are some recommendations by driving rehabilitation specialists that work with older drivers.

Get an eye exam: Since the information relevant to driving is predominantly visual, getting an eye exam is a great step towards ensuring safety while driving. Annual checkups are recommended to keep track of vision and to ensure eyewear aligns with any changes in vision over time.

Get a physical or wellness exam: It is very important to monitor changes in overall health as it relates to driving. Medical conditions like arthritis, dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea and stroke can all affect driving.

Many seniors may use various medications, or combinations of medications, that can potentially lead to drowsiness or lightheadedness. Potential side effects to medications can impair judgment or reflexes and the alertness necessary for safe driving. Conducting annual physical or wellness examinations and a review of medications is a wise way to ensure safer driving.

Take a refresher course: Many organizations have mature driver improvement courses that can help refine driving skills and teach adaptations to slower reflexes, diminished vision and other age-related physical changes that can impact driving. Taking a class may also earn a discount on auto insurance. To locate a class, search online or check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Most courses cost around $20 to $30 and can be taken online.

Make some adjustments: Adjusting when and where driving occurs is another way to help stay safe. Some simple adjustments include not driving after dark or during rush hour traffic, avoiding major highways or other busy roads and not driving in poor weather conditions.

Evaluate driving: To stay on top of your parent’s driving abilities you should take a ride with your parent from time-to-time to determine problem areas. Some things to look out for include driving at inappropriate speeds, tailgating, drifting between lanes, difficulty seeing, backing up or changing lanes, reacting slowly, confusion or making poor driving decisions.

If your parent needs a more comprehensive evaluation, you can seek assistance from a driver rehabilitation specialist who is trained to evaluate older drivers and offer suggestions and adaptations to help keep them safe. This type of assessment can run anywhere between $100 to $500 or more. To find a specialist in your area, conduct an online search with terms like “driving practitioner directory.”

If driving is no longer safe, you should compile a list of names and phone numbers of family, friends and local transportation services that can be called on for a ride.

To find out what transportation services are available, contact the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116), which will direct you to the area agency on aging for assistance.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published February 23, 2024
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