Feature article

Staying safe on the road as we get older

As we get older, we need to be aware of our evolving driving limitations. Here’s how to stay safe on the road.

Let’s face it, it’s an unavoidable fact that none of us are getting any younger. We should savour and appreciate our advance in years, recognise that with age comes wisdom and experience, but also a slight increase in our physical, and perhaps mental, limitations. Although ageing is an inevitable part of life, it is something that should be given adequate consideration with regard to our ability to safely drive a vehicle. Let’s take a look at staying safe on the road as we travel further along the journey of life.

Mind and body

To drive safely, we need to be both physically and psychologically fit to handle the challenges of the road. If the body is able, but the mind is a little fuzzy around the edges, we’re at risk of an accident. And, equally, if the mind is sharp but the body is unwilling to cooperate, we’re potentially in some serious trouble. Both tools need to be ticking over nicely, and we’ll tell you why.

Let’s get physical

As the odometer of our biological clocks wind forward, to keep ourselves and others safe on the road we need to stay fit and able to react. Our muscle and bone strength needs to be of a reasonable standard and our body needs to be able to:

  • Safely reach for the seatbelt and securely buckle it.
  • Turn adequately to check all blind spots.
  • Control the steering wheel and have a strong, secure grip.
  • Press the correct foot pedals at the right times.
  • Operate controls for functions like the headlights and windscreen wipers.

Be honest with yourself – if you’re struggling with any of the above actions, you could be putting yourself and others at risk on the road.

A beautiful mind

The painful truth is that getting older means our brain needs more time to process information. You can’t fill it to the brim with years of knowledge and not expect a little slow down on the ol’ hard drive, right? Our mind needs to:

  • Be able to recognise traffic signs and their meanings.
  • Have good awareness of other vehicles and what’s happening around us.
  • Notice when traffic lights have changed.
  • Remain alert to pedestrians and any sudden activities outside of the car.

Have you noticed that you’re struggling with any of these mental challenges of driving? If so, you need to take action before you put yourself or others in danger.

Sharp mind and healthy body

The good news is that there’s plenty we can do to help keep our body strong, and our mind sharp. For a healthy body we need to stay active, get plenty of exercise from running, playing sports, walking – whatever we can manage. The important thing is that we do something!

To keep the mind sharp, we should be challenging our brains with puzzles, crosswords, card games, even video games can help if they’re your thing. The brain is like a muscle – if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it...not literally, but you get the gist.

Would your body pass its WoF?

One of the beauties of getting older is that we get to know ourselves pretty well over the years. With that in mind, there’s no excuse not to know our limitations. Can we still cut it on the road? If not, we need to be honest and step away from the vehicle or, if any issues are fixable, take the necessary actions to be fit to drive. Stay safe by:

  • Regularly getting vision and hearing checked – a deterioration in either can creep up on us quickly and unexpectedly as we get older.

  • Manage any conditions – this doesn’t just mean ensuring to take any medications, but being aware of the impacts they have on us. A drowsy driver is an extremely dangerous one.

  • Update your skills – If it’s a good few decades since you first stepped behind the wheel, there’s no harm in taking some refresher courses or reacquainting yourself with key driving skills. You might even see an insurance reduction because of undertaking such actions.

Keep on keepin’ on

Ultimately, we all want to enjoy our driving while keeping ourselves and others safe. If you take the above actions, are aware of any physical or mental shortcomings and manage them accordingly, there’s no reason not to continue getting behind the wheel, loving driving, and keep on keeping on. Here’s to many more happy and healthy years on the road!