There’s no getting away from it. As we get older the advancing years can bring some degree of deterioration in certain faculties and our ability of perform everyday tasks that we have previously taken for granted.
Keeping active and being able to get around is just as important as it ever was in our lives and getting older shouldn’t stop that, however recognising that that things change and taking some simple steps can keep you safer and more confident on the roads.
Here are some tops tips for keeping safe behind the wheel:
Eyesight – failing eyesight can be a gradual process and we may not realise how much worse it has become. Have your eyes checked every year and if you need glasses to drive use them.
Hearing – if you normally wear a hearing aid at home use it when driving or when out and about.
Driving at night – glare from headlights can cause a problem as our older eyes take longer to adjust. If you don’t feel confident driving at night then avoid it if you can. If you do need to drive then make sure you wear an up to date pair of distance glasses or contacts. Never wear tinted lenses such as red or amber as they can filter out traffic lights, brake lights and indicators.
Avoid distraction – our powers of concentration can decrease with age so avoid distractions, especially when we need to negotiate busy junctions
Plan your route – particularly if you are driving to an unfamiliar destination.
Know your limitations – we should own up to certain driving activities that are not quite as easy as they once were. If we start experiencing problems such as gripping the steering wheel or working other controls ask your doctor to refer you to an occupational therapist who might be able to suggest aids and accessories that would help. Remember it is not just your safety but that of your passengers and other road users as well.
Keep physically active – daily physical activity like walking, cycling and swimming help keep our joints supple and muscles strong.
Medications – certain over the counter and prescription medicines can affect our ability to drive safely. Ask your pharmacist or GP if you are safe to drive whilst taking them. If not ask if there is a suitable alternative.
For more information on keeping safe behind the wheel and some great advice to help keep you driving for longer go to The Older person's guide to road safety website using the link provided. There is also advice on using child car seats if you take the grandchildren out in your car.
Walking is a great form of exercise which provides many benefits; it’s free, it’s gentle on the body and helps reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and strokes and lowers blood pressure. It’s also excellent for controlling our weight, improving flexibility and for keeping us looking and feeling good. It also keeps us looking younger for longer – a big plus!
Top tips for stepping out on the right foot:
Plan your route – with a little planning we can cut down the number of time we have to cross busy roads.
Choosing a good time to go out – it’s better to avoid going out or coming back during rush hours when traffic is particularly heavy.
Wear brighter clothing – it doesn’t have to be fluorescent (although that is preferable) but something brighter or even carrying something light coloured can help you be seen more easily in poor weather or in the dark.
Cross where it is safest – you’d be surprised how many pedestrians are knocked down within sight of a pedestrian crossing. It’s worth the extra effort to use one. If none are available just make sure you pick somewhere that gives you a good view of traffic.
Staying alert to traffic conditions – it’s easy to misjudge speed and distance particularly with smaller vehicles such as cycles, so look for long gaps in traffic. Accept you perhaps can’t move quite as quickly as you once did and give yourself plenty of time to get across.
Expect the unexpected – traffic doesn’t always do what we expect. Will that vehicle turn into the junction even if it isn’t indicating; will the stationary van suddenly pull out?
Be careful when stepping out from behind parked vehicles – again you’d be surprised how many older pedestrians get knocked down by doing just that. If you can’t find a clearer space make sure you check there are no drivers in the vehicles and check properly before stepping out from between the vehicles.
Bus lanes and shared spaces – be particularly careful crossing bus lanes and cycle paths/lanes as they can easily catch us out - you probably won’t hear a cycle coming towards you, particularly from behind.
Watch out for blind spots – it might appear safe to cross where there is a stationary or queuing traffic but it if starts to move drivers may not have seen you in the road. Never cross in front of an HGV as we are likely to be hidden from the driver’s view
For more information and great advice on keeping active and safe on the roads when walking, cycling or using public transport go to The Older person's guide to road safety website
Disabled drivers can get practical advice about driving, an assessment of their capabilities, and advice about car adaptations and/or choice of car from Driving Mobility.
They offer professional, high quality information, advice and assessment to individuals who are recovering from an accident or injury or who have a medical condition which may affect their ability to drive or access a motor vehicle.