Unstoppable: Keep Your Keys! Safe Driving Tips for Seniors

Drive on

Drive On!

Retirement can deliver up some of the best years of your life – especially if you don’t lose confidence in your driving abilities. To help keep your wheels on the road, check out these top tips!

Keep fit

Research shows drivers make about 15 important driving decisions for every kilometre of road they travel. Older drivers are likely to make sound decisions because of their driving experience and maturity. However, unless an older driver is fit, they may not be able to put those decisions into action quickly enough. If you don’t already attend a gentle exercise group, such as Tai chi or Pilates, why not consider starting (check with your doctor, first).

Health checks

Hearing and eyesight are so important when it comes to safe driving, but so is your general health. If you’ve neglected regular check ups in the past, change your habits today and visit your doctor for a personal WOF. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the friends and family you regularly ferry around in your vehicle.

Pick your times

One of the best things about retirement, is you are your own boss where time is concerned. Unless you enjoy sitting in traffic, or bumper to bumper driving, head out in your vehicle at a time of day when traffic flow is past its peak – and don’t leave it until the rush hour to return home. As a bonus, you’ll also save petrol by not being stuck in traffic, going no where!

Recce road trip

Roads are often updated or changed, and along with them, signage, roundabouts, and traffic lights. Instead of waiting until you’re running late for an appointment to encounter the changes, take a recce at a quiet time of the day when you have all the time in the world. Be sure to go alone or with someone you trust to help navigate, and leave the talkative passenger, the grandchildren and the pet pooch out of the equation.

Freshen Up

There’s nothing like a driving refresher course to build your confidence. These are offered around the country through organisations such as Waka Kotahi. If you’re an AA member, and you’re aged over 74, there’s a free course, tailor made for senior drivers. If cost isn’t an issue, consider taking a couple of refresher lessons with a qualified driving instructor.

Speak to me!

Navigating while driving isn’t easy for everyone, but as we age, we need to concentrate on the road more than ever. It makes sense to let a navigation app do the work for you. If you don’t already make use of a voice-navigator, check out what’s available on Google Maps (it usually comes with your smart phone) or Maps.Me. Both apps allow you to programme your journey before you even leave home, and they talk you through all your turns

Reduce driving hours

It’s no secret the older we get, the more easily we tire. If you’re planning a road trip, make the driving days shorter, not longer! If there’s a leg that can’t be shortened, start out as early as possible in the day, and break the journey with a meal and a snooze before you hit the road again.

Share the load

Just because you have your driver’s licence, you don’t always have to be the one to put up your hand to take others to clubs, sports meetings or outings. If you find your eyesight isn’t the best for driving after dark (or in any other situation) accept a ride from someone who is confident in these situations.

Check your meds

Some medications can cause drowsiness, fainting, and co-ordination loss – and that’s at the best of times. However, when medications are mixed with alcohol, these effects can be dramatically increased. Always read the instructions that come with medications, and discuss with your doctor if it’s safe to drive while taking them (with or without a drink of alcohol thrown in). If you’re advised there are risks, grab a lift with a friend, or use public transport, instead of driving.

Go alcohol-free

Reaction times slow as we mature. Even though there are legal alcohol limits for driving, for peace of mind, why not commit to going alcohol-free when you’re at the wheel?

Age doesn’t have to be a barrier to driving – but if you have any doubts about your abilities, consult with someone you trust.