Whether you’re taking a quick trip to the grocery store or traveling across the country on vacation, driving can be enjoyable. But as you age, being behind the wheel may be less fun, comfortable or carefree as it once was. Here’s an easy way to create a plan for driving wellness, using the acronym (EX) H.A.L.E, which represents the sign of relief you may feel from these tips:
To find out more, read through each category below:
Your health impacts the way you drive. That’s why it’s important to:
- Keep up regular preventative care appointments like getting an eye checkup.
- Follow your health provider’s recommendations.
- Take inventory of your medications and any side effects that may impact your driving.
- Talk to your health care provider if you have a chronic illness or condition about potential impacts on your driving skills.
Learning more about normal age-related changes that can impact driving wellness can be very helpful. For instance, changes in your vision while driving at night can start in your 30’s. Along with decreased peripheral vision, strength and reflexes. You may also start to become more susceptible to glare.
If you’re concerned about your driving or just had a change in your health, you may want to consider a comprehensive driving evaluation. You can sign up on the American Occupational Therapy Association’s website. You can also search for a driving specialist on this site.
As you age, it’s important to keep learning about safety on the road. One good option is to take a class to keep up with the rules of the road and understand more about health changes that can occur as you get older. For instance, you can take the AARP Smart Driver Course.
You’ll also want to keep learning about new vehicle technologies that support driving wellness. The Hartford’s research with the MIT AgeLab has identified several technologies that may help enhance driving for older adults like:
- Blind spot warning systems
- Back-up cameras
- Smart headlights
- Collision avoidance systems
- Lane departure warnings
According to research by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence (CMME) and the MIT AgeLab, exercise can help enhance flexibility and range of motion in older drivers. In fact, they found that drivers in the study who were asked to exercise daily saw benefits, including:
- Greater ease in turning their heads to see blind spots when changing lanes or to back up.
- The ability to rotate their bodies further to scan the driving environment while making right hand turns.
- Increased overall flexibility and the ability to get into their cars more quickly.
After two years of research with the MIT AgeLab, CMME found that family members are often the first to notice changes in safe driving behavior. Following this study, CMME distributed materials to older drivers and their families that encourage conversations and provided tools to help intervene when needed. It’s also important for older drivers and their family members to consider a comprehensive driving evaluation. This is a more complete assessment of a person’s ability to drive compared to a single driving test.
It’s important that as a driver, you actively maintain and improve your driving wellness. This includes knowing the current rules of the road and maximizing your personal health and fitness related to driving. Seek a qualified professional for any concerns about your confidence in your ability to drive. Whatever you decide, you’ll learn more about staying safe on the roads. You’ll also be able to maintain a comfortable driving experience for years to come.