No. 4: Understand your limitations

Consider your physical limitations and make any necessary adjustments. For example, if your hands hurt when gripping the steering wheel, use a steering wheel cover that makes holding and turning the wheel more comfortable. You might ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist, who can offer assistive devices to help you drive or suggest specific exercises to help you overcome your limitations.

You might also adjust your vehicle or choose a different vehicle to better meet your needs. For example, many older drivers find it easier to step into and out of a bigger car. Vehicles that feature larger, easier-to-read dials on the dashboard are often popular with older drivers. Features such as large mirrors and power windows and door locks can be helpful, too.

No. 5: Drive under optimal conditions

You can improve driver safety by driving 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. Don't drive if you're tired or angry — and never drive after drinking alcohol.

No. 6: 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 or printed directions while driving. If you use a GPS device, enter your destination before you start driving. If necessary, call ahead for directions or major landmarks, such as water towers, schools or other prominent buildings. While you're driving, don't do anything that takes your focus from the road — such as eating, using a cell phone or adjusting the radio.

No. 7: Update your driving skills

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

In addition, know when it's time to consider other alternatives. If you become confused while you're driving or you're concerned about your ability to drive safely — or loved ones or others have expressed concern — it might be best to stop driving. Consider taking the bus, using a van service, hiring a driver or taking advantage of other local transportation options. Giving up your car keys doesn't need to end your independence. Instead, consider it a way to keep yourself and others safe on the road.

Mar. 26, 2011 See more In-depth