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10 Driving Tips for Older Drivers

• Written by Josh

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Older people can face several difficulties as the years go on, with driving being one particular area where they may begin to struggle. Sadly, it is common to read news stories about collisions or mishaps on the roads that have been caused by an older driver.

In today's post we will share some driving tips to help older drivers to remain confident and safe on the roads. Remember, if you have any doubts about your skill or ability as an older driver you should seek medical advice and/or consider retiring from the road.

The Right Car

It might sound silly, but having the right car is essential for any older driver to stay safe on the road. This is particularly true if the driver has a disability or long-term medical condition and needs a specific set up. With hundreds of different models available, with customisation down to the finest of details, there is always going to be the perfect car available for every need.

Drivers that have problems with seating positions and reaching the wheel will need to have a car that has the right adjustments available. If you're having trouble with controls and seeing the road comfortably, it may be time to switch models and invest in a car which has various seating positions and wheel adjustments. More car manufacturers are adding these features as standard across many of their models.

Smaller cars can also often be a better option for an older driver as they are generally deemed more easy to manoeuvre, both on the road and when parking. In addition to this, considering an automatic over a manual can make driving less stressful as there is no need to worry about changing gears, thus creating more time to concentrate on the road ahead.

Car Keys have put together their top 10 cars list for older drivers, with the Suzuki Ignis coming out on top.

A Safe Car

After buying the right car, you then need to ensure that your car is always a safe and legal vehicle. Your car must remain taxed, have a valid MOT certificate and you will need to have insurance to drive it on the road.

Other little safety checks that you, or a loved one, can carry out include:

  • Tyres - Check that there are not cuts or bulges, that the tyre pressure is correct and that they have the legal minimum of 1.6mm of tread.
  • Checking that the oil, coolant and windscreen wash levels are near their maximum levels.
  • Check that your brakes, and brake lights, are functioning before setting off.
  • Check that your lights and indicators are working before setting off.
  • Check that your wipers are working correctly before setting off.
  • Making sure that your driver's seat is adjusted so you can easily reach all the controls and have a good view of the road over the bonnet, and around the vehicle.
  • That everybody has their seat belt on.

Avoid Long Journeys

Long journeys can make even the youngest of drivers feel tired and worn out. Older drivers can become tired much easier, which can become extremely dangerous whilst on the road. Did you know that:

Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related, and that these types of accidents are more likely to result in a fatality or serious injury? The peak times for sleep-related accidents are in the early hours and after lunch."

Older drivers may also become distressed or uncomfortable on longer journeys due to a weaker bladder. Although our motorways are lined with service stations, on some journeys you may go an hour or so without passing one and may become desperate for the toilet. This distraction will mean that you're not concentrating on the road and can also cause health problems if you can't find a suitable rest room.

Avoid longer journeys by organising public transport or asking family members to drive you if there's a long journey ahead that you're worried about tackling.

Get Those Eyes Tested

Your eyesight is vital when it comes to being on the road. If you have any doubts about your vision you need to get them checked out professionally, before taking the time to consider whether or not you should continue driving. Many accidents happen across our roads due to poor vision. There is a legal requirement for all drivers to be able to clearly read a number plate from at least 20 metres away.

You can get a free eye test on the NHS if you're over the age of 60, and you can also get 25% off glasses with the likes of Specsavers.

It is also essential that you frequently visit your GP to ensure that everything is fine with your body. If you are diagnosed with a medical condition you will firstly need to contact the DVLA, but you should also consult with your doctor on how it can affect your driving.

Blue Badge Scheme

The Blue Badge Scheme has been set-up for disabled drivers and those with permanently limited mobility. It can offer free parking and reserved parking areas outside the holder's home. This is a great driving tip to know about as it can save any older disabled drivers from hunting around tirelessly for an easy access parking space.

Read our guide to the scheme for further information.

Get Sat-Nav Savvy

Another tip for any older driver is to invest in a satellite navigation system. These are a god send when it comes to getting lost or finding your way around somewhere completely new. With hundreds of models available on the market, from as little at £50, these small little pieces of tech are always the perfect car accessory to help keep you safe on the road knowing where you’re travelling.

Check out our Top Apps for the Elderly article for more examples of useful technology.

Check your Speed

It's extremely dangerous to ignore the speed limit, whether you're going faster or slower than the limit. Modern cars are so powerful and comfortable they give drivers little sensation of their speed, which makes it easy to creep over the limit.

Ways of ensuring that you don't break the speed limit include:

  • Regularly checking your speedometer, especially when changing from a high to low speed road.
  • Know the speed limit. Always keep an eye out for speed signs and understand the rules regarding speeds on certain roads. Remember, it's best to assume that lamp posts mean 30mph - unless signs say otherwise.
  • Try driving in no higher that third gear whilst in a 30mph limit zone.

Driving too slowly (well below the speed limit in free-flowing conditions) can cause frustration for other drivers, who may tailgate you or overtake when it's not safe. If you find yourself in this situation, find somewhere safe to pull over and let other traffic pass.

Remove any Distractions

Modern day driving is full of distractions, not only on the road, but also inside your vehicle. For example, having the radio on can easily distract you if you begin singing to your favourite song or joining in with a debate. Turn the radio off for longer journeys where you really need to keep your concentration.

Likewise, having the window open allows wind to blow into the vehicle, as well as sounds from outside. If you cannot hear, or potentially see, properly then you're not able to fully concentrate on what's going on around you.

Another distraction to avoid is having any food or drink whilst you're behind the wheel. You may drop a piece of food or spill liquids on yourself, which would cause a natural reaction of taking your eyes off the road! Wait until the services or until you've arrived at your destination to eat.

Driving Assessments

We've all questioned our confidence on the road at one time or another, along with how great we really are at driving. As we get older, our concentration levels can drop, and our reactions become slower. In order to make sure you're still fully fit to be driving it's best to take a driving assessment. The following are just a few refreshers courses that are offered to older drivers:

  • The AA: The AA offers a free Drive Confident course to those who meet certain criteria. Applications are open to all via an online form.
  • The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM): The IAM’s Mature Driver's Assessment course is geared specifically towards older drivers.
  • Private driving instructor: Many private driving instructors have experience of working with older drivers. Always look for an instructor who is registered with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). The Directgov website allows you to search for a DSA registered instructor in your area.

Stay Safe & Know when to Stop

If you begin to doubt your driving ability or have a near-crash experience, then the time may have come for you to think about coming off the roads. It may be best to talk it through with your doctor or members of your family - both of whom can help you to make the decision.

There are alternatives to driving which can be easily accessed by older people. You will be able to take advantage of a free bus pass and discounted rail travel in order to visit your friends or to do your shopping. Your younger friends and family members will also be more than happy to drive you places when they are not at work.

Most importantly, if you have begun to doubt your driving ability then it shows that you are lacking in confidence behind the wheel - which can potentially put other drivers and pedestrians in danger.

Safety is the most important thing on the roads and it is vital that everybody, not just elderly drivers, takes as much care as possible whilst driving.

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