Driving is surprisingly demanding on the body. You have to see and hear clearly at all times; you have to move quickly and firmly with your arms and legs; and you have to be mentally alert. It’s difficult enough for people in the flower of their youth. When you’ve seen the better part of a century of life, it’s natural for it to start to seem daunting.
If you’ve noticed that your driving is getting dicier, don’t worry: there’s plenty you can do to get your confidence and skill back. Consider some of these tips to make life safer on the road.
Take a Refresher Course
It’s probably been a long time since you took Driver’s Ed. That’s no problem – it’ll still be there waiting for you if you want to try it again. It may be a good idea to do so.
It’s only so you can brush up on the fundamentals, although that can help when your muscles don’t respond the way they used to. More importantly, driving habits, laws, and instructions have changed pretty significantly over the years. Cars are built differently now, with integrated computers and sophisticated design features that you may not fully appreciate.
For example, steering wheels are so sensitive these days that instructors no longer counsel the old ‘9 and 3 o’clock’ position for your hands. The column responds to the slightest touch, so it’s better to get a firmer, more flexible grip.
These and many more suggestions await you at any number of licensed Driver’s Ed schools. Take seriously the idea of enrolling in a course.
Make Sure the Car Fits
Making sure your car is comfortable and suited to your needs is extremely important for older drivers. You can’t stuff yourself into a VW beetle and crane your neck around anymore. Find a car that’s spacious enough for you to enter and exit comfortably, and that offers you all the features you need to drive in a peaceful state of mind.
If you have any special needs due to medical conditions, cars can often be equipped with rails, cushions, levers, or whatever else suits your state of health.
Know Your Limitations
Speaking of health, it’s very important to be aware of what you can and can’t do with your body as you get older. You’re not doing yourself any favors by getting in the car when you’re not feeling up to it. Listen to your body and make sure you don’t push it beyond its means. The idea is to feel comfortable and safe when you’re driving, and if you don’t, have the self-awareness to avoid it.
Try to avoid driving at night, or in peak hours when driving becomes less safe and more difficult. The best way to do that is to plan for when you’ll be driving, so you can schedule your trip during leisurely, comfortable driving time.
Get Your Vision and Hearing Checked
Vision and hearing can fade so gradually over the course of old age that it be difficult to notice how far along it is. Make sure to get your eyes and ears checked regularly so that you never feel unsafe behind the wheel.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re worried about whether or not you’re up to driving, the first stop should be your doctor. The two of you can talk it over carefully in light of your health and establish the ground rules for your time on the road.