14 Things to Know for Senior Citizen Drivers

senior man in the drivers seat of a car smiling

As you get older, driving becomes a more challenging activity. Having great auto insurance is an important part of driving as a senior citizen — yet while there are certain physical and cognitive changes that can make driving more difficult, older drivers can still stay safe on the road by following the following 14 tips:

1. Remain Physically and Mentally Active

As you grow older, perhaps the most important step you can take towards staying healthy is remaining active. It helps your flexibility and strength, making it easier to perform maneuvers like turning the steering wheel, looking over your shoulder when reversing or changing lanes, and doing other driving-related movements.

Walking is a fantastic way to remain physically active on a daily basis. Simple exercises like standing up from a sitting position, stretching, and lightweight training are also important for older drivers.

Just as important is to stay mentally active. Challenge yourself with new activities, skills, and hobbies. Goals like learning a new language can have a remarkable effect on the mental abilities of older drivers.

If you notice yourself feeling confused on the road or have other concerns about your abilities, see a doctor to assess your capabilities. The answer may be that it is best to stop driving. With public transportation, carpooling, ride-sharing programs, and other transportation options, this doesn’t mean giving up your independence!

2. Have Your Eyes and Ears Checked Regularly

Sight and sound are crucial for operating safely on the roadway. If you cannot see well, it could impair your ability to drive — especially at night. Likewise, hearing impairment can prevent you from hearing emergency vehicles, motorcycles, other cars’ horns, or approaching trains.

As any doctor can tell you, hearing and vision are also the senses that need correction with age. Certain common problems with sight include macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts, while tinnitus and loss of high-frequency information tend to affect hearing.

To stay safe, schedule regular vision and hearing tests even if you don’t notice a problem. You may even catch a problem before it’s noticeable and be able to correct it. All of this will reduce the risk of becoming involved in an accident.

If your doctor recommends against certain driving activities, such as driving at night, make sure to listen.

3. Understand Your Medications

The side effects of certain drugs like medications for colds and pain can impair your motor and mental abilities. This includes medical marijuana. Make sure you know the side effects of each medication by reading the labels.

If you take any medicine that causes dizziness or drowsiness, you should not drive afterward. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

4. Drive in Good Conditions (And in a Good Emotional State)

If you limit your driving to good weather, good traffic conditions, and daylight hours, you are cutting down on your risk of getting in an accident. If the weather or visibility outside isn’t good, delay your trip if you can. You may also be able to opt for public transportation.

Similarly, it would be best if you didn’t drive in certain conditions, such as being sleepy or angry. These can distract you and lead to poor decision-making. Instead, wait until you’re in a more positive place to drive.

5. Know Your Limits

One of the best precautions anyone can take when getting behind the wheel is knowing their limits. Acknowledge the realities of your body and work with them, not against them. For example, if you have arthritis and gripping the wheel is difficult, perhaps a cushioned steering wheel cover could help with the pain and give you more control.

Asking your doctor to refer you to an occupational therapist is a great start. Occupational therapists can help you find devices that make driving easier and more comfortable.

If you are buying a new car, shop around for ones that work with any limitations you might have. For instance, look for vehicles with larger, more visible dashboard dials. In addition, some cars have fewer blind spots, more adjustable seats, and other features that can make driving safer and more comfortable.

6. Consider a Driving Course

Driving courses can teach new skills and safety techniques that might not have occurred to you otherwise. There are plenty of older driver refresher courses available through local organizations or a community education program.

A driving course is a fun, informative way to ensure you’re up to date and trained on the latest driving techniques. You’ll also learn how to handle emergencies like a tire blowout.

male senior man sitting in his classic car

7. Do Not Use Your Cell Phone on the Road

While you’re driving, your cell phone should be stowed away in the center console or somewhere else where it won’t distract you.

The National Safety Council confirms that cell phones are a frequent cause of distracted driving, which itself is a large cause of accidents. The best way to avoid the temptation to look at your phone is to have it out of sight.

If you need to use your phone for music or as a GPS, perform all necessary screen interactions before you start driving. You should also make phone calls ahead of time.

8. Be Extra Careful About Alcohol

Drinking and driving is always a bad idea, but alcohol requires even more caution as you get older. This is because your body’s ability to digest alcohol tends to change with age, making even a single drink a potential source of dangerous blood alcohol content. This effect is compounded with certain medications.

Pay attention to your body’s signals when you drink — if you feel unsafe to be on the road or notice yourself in an altered mental state, don’t drive.

9. Eat Before You Drive — Not During

Eating can be very distracting, so it’s best to avoid it while driving. Enjoy your food in a rest stop or before you set off on the road and finish your meal before you head back.

10. If Music/Podcasts/Radio Distract You, Turn Them Off

Limiting your distractions is of the utmost importance as a senior citizen driver. If talking with other passengers, listening to the radio, or turning on an audiobook impairs your focus on the road, avoid them.

11. Take Better Routes to Get There

Certain traffic features become harder to navigate as you get older, including:

  • On ramps
  • Roundabouts/traffic circles
  • Left turns on busy roads
  • Roads with large truck traffic

Avoid routes that contain these features, opting instead for easier-to-drive options.

12. Choose Less Busy Times of Day

Driving in heavy traffic can be stressful for any driver — senior citizens included. Try to travel during off-peak hours to avoid stop-and-go traffic, tight maneuvers, and aggressive drivers.

13. Get Evaluated for Driving Capabilities

It’s a responsible decision to get evaluated for certain faculties associated with good driving abilities. These include things like:

  • Coordination
  • Reflexes and reaction time
  • Flexibility
  • Range of motion
  • Muscular strength
  • Decision-making skills
  • Judgment
  • Ability to control a vehicle with special adaptive devices

14. Try Exciting New Driving Technologies

There are several new vehicle technologies that specifically help senior citizen drivers stay safe on the road. Try the following technologies to avoid accidents and reduce stress:

Automatic notification of accidents

These systems automatically detect a crash and will dial for help. The system usually requires airbags to go off to call emergency services, which keeps you from having to dial 911.

Collision Warnings

If you are in danger of having a forward collision, a collision warning system can warn you and apply the brakes for you. Alternatively, it may produce a flashing signal or alert you with a sound. These technologies reduce the risk of crashes significantly and will help account for potentially slower reaction times.

Self-Parking Cars

Using a system of sensors and radars, some higher-end cars will now park themselves automatically. This is a great help in tight parking lots and in situations when parallel parking is required.

Rear-View Cameras

Today, many cars come stock with rear-view cameras, which provide a wide view of what’s directly behind you. This is extremely helpful for parking and avoiding obstacles.

In-car navigation systems

Some cars also include proprietary GPS systems. This lets your car guide you on where to go using audible instructions. This helps drivers feel more confident behind the wheel, making them safer and more relaxed.

If you choose a car with such a system, make sure it’s easy to use and has good reviews — if it’s not a good system, it could wind up distracting you.

InsureOne Is Here to Help

If you’re an older driver, you need a trusted insurance provider on your side. InsureOne offers industry-leading policies for our senior citizen customers, giving you the protection you need to stay confident on the road. Read more on our website to learn about age brackets in auto insurance. We’ll also help you understand every part of your insurance policy.

Whether you need car insurance or homeowners, long-term care, RV/trailer, or other types of coverage, InsureOne is here to help. Get a free quote online, over the phone, or at one of our offices near you.