The Grey Light: Seniors and Driving (How to Ensure You’re Driving Safely)

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Today, people are living longer, which means there are more seniors on the road than ever before. That is why it is important to know that as we age, so do our bodies. Your physical abilities can change, as well as decline, making it harder to operate a vehicle. It is important to assess these changes and understand how they can affect your driving. Here are some tips you can take to improve your driving to insure you stay safe on the road.

Get an Annual Eye Check: Having good vision is extremely important when it comes to driving and operating a motor vehicle. As we get older our eye sight can deteriorate and weaken. This can affect the way we drive. There are several steps you can take to ensure you are able to see well enough to drive, but most importantly, drive safely. Make sure you get your eye sight checked one to two times a month. Your eye doctor can help with treatment if you are having any vision problems. Check with them to see if you need a new contact or glasses prescription. It is important that you always wear corrective lenses while operating a vehicle. If you have night blindness or difficulty driving in the dark, try to limit your driving hours to daytime. Be sure to keep mirrors, headlights, and windshields clean. Another important factor, make sure you can see at least 10 feet above your car. If you can’t, you need to adjust your seat.

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What Medications Are You Taking?: It is important you know what medications you are taking and what side effects they may cause. Some medications can make you feel light-headed or sleepy. If you ever feel this way, do not drive. Read your medicine labels to see if any of them interfere with your driving or say, “Do not use while operating heavy machinery,” If this important warning is on one of your medications, do not drive. If you are unsure about a certain prescription or the side-effects, consult your doctor or the pharmacist.

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Check Your Hearing: What was that? It is important to be able to hear clearly while driving. You want to make sure you are able to hear if another passenger is honking their horn to prevent an accident or if an ambulance is coming up behind you, or a train is blowing it’s horn alerting drivers of its oncoming approach. Did you know at age 65, one out of three people has hearing loss? That is why it’s important to have your hearing checked every three years. It might be necessary for you to get hearing aids and wear them while you’re driving. If the radio or in car conversations impair your hearing, try to limit them as much as possible while driving. It’s important to also be careful of cracking windows while operating a vehicle because the wind can decline the efficiency of a hearing aid.

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Get Some Sleep: Sleep is essential for everyone, but it is a key factor to driving well. Make sure you are getting eight hours of sleep a night. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police reported crashes, each year, are caused primarily by drowsy driving and this results in more than 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. It is critical you consult your doctor about the effects your medications can have on sleep and driving. Bottom line, you are the one who needs to be aware of your own abilities. If you find yourself having trouble focusing while driving, or keeping your head up, constant yawning or rubbing your eyes, you must take the necessary cautions and not drive.

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Check Your Reaction Time: As we age our coordination, flexibility, and reaction declines. This can affect the way you drive, and not in a positive way. By having a slower reaction time, it can be more dangerous for driver’s when someone suddenly pulls out in front of them. However, there are a few steps you can take to increase reaction time and keep you safe while on the road. Make sure you leave enough space between you and the next car. It’s a good idea to stay the length of two car spaces between you and the person ahead of you. Try to avoid rush hour if possible. Find alternative routes with less traffic. If you do find yourself driving on the interstate or highway, stay in the right lane, as it is meant for slower traffic, but remember to watch for oncoming traffic.

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Driving is a pleasure everyone can understand and appreciate. It affords us freedom and mobility to go see our families and our friends. No one wants to be in an accident or cause one.  We all have loved ones on the road, so help keep them safe by being responsible and attentive to your own abilities of driving and help keep everyone safe on the road.