Older drivers: 7 tips for driver safety

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

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Driver safety requires more than understanding road signs and traffic laws. As you get older, you'll likely notice physical changes that can make certain actions — such as turning your head to look for oncoming traffic or braking safely — more challenging. Still, older drivers can remain safe on the road. Consider seven tips for older drivers.

1. Stay physically active

Staying physically active improves your strength and flexibility. In turn, physical activity can improve driver safety by making it easier to turn the steering wheel, look over your shoulder, and make other movements while driving and parking.

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 for older drivers, too. If you've been sedentary, get your doctor's OK before increasing your activity level.

2. Schedule regular vision and hearing tests

Some senses, such as hearing and vision, tend to decline with age. Impaired hearing can be a concern for older drivers by limiting the ability to hear an approaching emergency vehicle or train. Common age-related vision problems — such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration — also can make it difficult to see clearly or drive at night.

Ask your doctor how often 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 might be easier to correct if caught early.

3. Manage any chronic conditions

Work with your doctor to manage any chronic conditions — especially those that might impact driver safety, such as diabetes or seizures. Follow your doctor's instructions for managing your condition and staying safe behind the wheel. This might include adjusting your treatment plan or restricting your driving.

It's equally important to know your medications. Many drugs, including pain medications, sleep medications, antihistamines and muscle relaxants can affect driver safety, even when you're feeling fine. Read your medication labels so that you know what to expect from each one. Don't drive if you've taken medication that causes drowsiness or dizziness. If you're concerned about side effects or the impact on driver safety, consult your doctor.

Jun. 26, 2014 See more In-depth