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Driving Tips for Seniors

A Guide for Older Drivers & Those Who Care About Them

It's estimated that by the year 2020 one in five drivers will be 65 years or older. Experts agree that knowing the warning signs of driving impairments, adjusting to physical and mental changes, and developing transportation alternatives are critical to the safety of older drivers, their passengers and others on the road.

"With old age come changes that can greatly impact the ability to drive," noted Ray Palermo, director of public relations for Response Insurance. "Unfortunately it's borne out by the fact that older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes than any other age group except teenagers."

Here, Palmero offeres several tips for older drivers to consider.

Vision: As they age, drivers should be cognizant of their ability to see clearly, particularly at night, the discernment of contrasts, peripheral vision, the ability to adjust to changing conditions and depth perception, all of which impact safe driving. To avoid on-coming headlights, focus your eyes to the right side of the lane and speak to your doctor about yellow, night-driving glasses. Have wide-angle rear and side view mirrors installed to increase your view and to reduce blind spots.

Hearing: Hearing should be checked regularly. If a hearing aid is needed, be sure to ask about its effect on separating out background noise.

Motor Skills: Advancing age is often accompanied by a reduction in strength, which can affect the ability to brake or steer in an emergency. Stiffness in joints or arthritis, can also limit a driver's ability to turn his or her head sufficiently or to steer properly. Regular exercise will enhance flexibility, strength and stamina. Keeping limber will expand the overall range of movement.

Reaction Time: Often a person's reaction time slows with age, which increases the possibility of accidents, or reacting to road hazards. Keep a longer distance between you and the car ahead to compensate for slowing reflexes.

Medications: The effect of all medications taken should be addressed by a doctor.

Mental Acuity: Aging often results in a decrease in the ability to multi-task. Limit the use of the radio. Have passengers handle directions and map navigation.

"One of the most important things is recognizing when it's time to give up driving altogether," said Palermo. "It's often a painful and difficult decision, but absolutely necessary if you are putting yourself or others at risk." He recommends that older drivers speak openly with family, friends and their doctor, and prepare for the possibility by researching the availability and cost of taxis, public transportation and any government or non-profit transportation alternatives before it's needed.

(Source: Response Insurance)