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Safety Tips for Older Indiana Drivers

December 3, 2015

Safety Tips for Older Indiana Drivers

December 7th through 11th is designated as National Older Driver Awareness Week. We are joining forces with other aging services providers to share important information on the issues older drivers in Indiana and across the country face when they climb behind the wheel of their car.

The Impact of Aging on Driving Abilities

Contrary to what you may have heard, the age on a senior’s license isn’t what puts them at risk. One 80 year old driver may be far safer on the roads than another driver in their 60s. Here’s what you should know:

  1. Vision: Since 90% of decisions made while driving are based on visual information, regular eye exams are crucial. In addition, the aging eye requires a great deal more light than a younger eye. Senior drivers may want to consider scheduling errands during daylight hours to compensate.
  2. Reaction Time: Reacting to a situation while driving involves sensing, deciding and acting. Age lengthens the time it takes the brain to process information, and makes it harder to ignore distractions.

    A few ways to help compensate for this natural tendency are:

    • Leave more distance between you and the car ahead of you, so you have more time to react.
    • Eliminate distractions such as listening to the radio or talking on your cell phone.
    • Plan your route ahead of time. This reduces last minute decisions on where to turn.
    • LIf Indiana freeways are too fast moving, take the scenic side roads instead.
    • Plan your travel and errands so you are on the roads during slower traffic times.
  3. Medication Side Effects: Remember that some medications commonly prescribed for older adults can make you drowsy or distracted. A few of the worst offenders are tranquilizers, pain medicine, sleeping pills, antidepressants, cough medicine and cold remedies.
    • Read the label. If a medicine states, “Do not operate heavy machinery” leave the driving to someone else.
    • Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about potential side effects, including for any over-the-counter medications you are taking. Alcohol should also be on this list as it can interact with many medicines.
  4. Refresh Your Skills: Many communities offer local driver refresher courses. These courses can update you on changes in traffic laws and offer safe driving tips. Some also offer actual behind-the-wheel assessments, which can be helpful in making sure your driving skills are up to par. Your local Indiana AAA office also offers senior driving classes and self-assessment tests.

Being a safe driver means being aware of and accepting your changing abilities. With these few simple adjustments, you can keep yourself and those on the roads around you safe.