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Safety Tips for Older Drivers

Driving can sometimes be challenging for older adults. Follow these driver safety tips, from taking good care of yourself to planning ahead and updating your skills.

Driver safety requires more than understanding road signs and traffic laws. As you get older, you'll likely notice physical changes that can make actions such as turning your head to look for oncoming traffic or driving at night more challenging. Still, getting older doesn't mean your driving days are over. Consider the top six tips for older drivers.

Stay physically active

Staying physically active improves your strength and flexibility, which may help with actions such as turning the steering wheel and looking over your shoulder. Look for ways to include physical activity in your daily routine. Walking is a great choice for many people. Stretching and strength training exercises are helpful, too. If you've been sedentary, get your doctor's permission before increasing your activity level.

Manage any chronic conditions

Work with your doctor to manage any chronic conditions - especially those that might affect your ability to drive safely. For example, if you have diabetes, follow your doctor's instructions for managing your blood sugar. This can help you avoid low blood sugar levels while you're behind the wheel. Follow any driving restrictions suggested by your doctor.

Of course, it is equally important to know your medications. Many drugs can affect your ability to drive safely, even when you're feeling fine. Read the labels of your medications so that you know what to expect from each one. Don't drive if you've taken medication that causes drowsiness or dizziness.

Schedule regular vision and hearing tests

Senses such as hearing and vision tend to decline with age. Impaired hearing may impede your ability to hear an approaching emergency vehicle or train. And common age-related vision problems - such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration - can make it difficult to see clearly or drive at night.

Ask your doctor how frequently to schedule vision and hearing tests. Even if you think your hearing and vision are fine, stick to your doctor's recommended exam schedule. Problems may be easier to correct if caught early.

Drive under optimal conditions

When possible, drive during the daytime, in good weather, on quiet roads and in familiar areas. Plan your route to avoid rush-hour traffic. Delay your trip if the visibility is poor. Beyond road conditions, make sure you're in optimal condition to drive, too. Don't drive if you're tired or angry - and never drive after drinking alcohol.

Plan ahead

When you get in your vehicle, be prepared to drive. Plan your route ahead of time so that you don't find yourself trying to read a map while driving.

Update your driving skills

Consider taking a refresher course for older drivers. Updating your driving skills may even earn you a discount on your car insurance, depending on your policy. Look for courses through your local community education program or organizations in your community that serve older adults (e.g. AARP).

Know when it is time to consider other alternatives

If you become confused while you're driving or you're concerned about your ability to drive safely - or your loved ones or others have expressed concern - consider other alternatives. Perhaps you can take the bus, use a van service or take advantage of other local transportation options. Giving up your car keys doesn't need to end your independence.