by Michael Goodman
The good news is that research suggests older drivers are likely to be involved in fewer road accidents than other age groups. This is partly because they tend to be more cautious, responsible and obey the law, and also because they are inclined to drive shorter distances and at times and on roads which make them feel safer.
However because their bodies are generally more frail, if involved in a road accident, older people are more at risk of serious injury or death than younger people.
Health is also a factor in the likelihood of road accidents involving the elderly. Physical and mental changes associated with ageing, such as deterioration of vision, memory, cognition and thinking can eventually affect your ability to drive safely.
You should visit your doctor on a regular basis for a general health check, especially if you or someone close to you notices that you do not seem to be functioning as well as you used to. You should tell your doctor that you drive, and he or she can advise whether you have a condition that could adversely affect your driving, or even make it unsafe for you to drive altogether.
Of course it is important to be alert while driving whatever age you are, and there are a number of simple but important guidelines you should observe.
Glance regularly in your rear and side view mirrors so you know what is happening both behind and alongside your vehicle, especially if you intend to overtake or change lanes on the highway.
Remember, your mirrors don’t show everything — there are blind spots — so you need to check by turning your head briefly to the left or right and looking over your shoulder to make sure that the space you are about to move into is not already occupied or being approached by another vehicle. Even when getting in or out of your car, double checking by turning your head is essential. In fact, in can be a life saver.
Your ability to judge distance and speed deteriorates with age and older people may take longer to react appropriately. Keep a safe distance from the car in front, and in wet weather and at night, leave a bigger gap. If a less responsible driver pulls in to fill the gap in front of you, drop back until the gap has widened again.
If you feel uncomfortable doing so, avoid driving at night. If it is absolutely necessary, try and stick to familiar roads. If you do not feel confident, you are more likely to be involved in an accident. If there is somewhere you have to or want to go at night, persuade a friend or family member to drive you, or take a bus or taxi.
And of course, whether you are a driver or a passenger, always wear your seatbelt!
Never, ever drink and drive, and be aware that many medicines can also affect your mental alertness and coordination. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist whether the prescribed or over the counter medication you are taking may affect your ability to drive safely.
Unfortunately, we all have to accept that there may come a time when we will have to reduce or cease driving. But in the meantime, if you follow these simple guidelines, they should help you to stay safer on the roads.
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