SFA author Jim Evans, a 41-year veteran of the health-fitness industry, is an internationally recognized senior fitness consultant. Today he’s steering a concerned older adult towards safer driving.
DEAR JIM: At 77, I find myself becoming more apprehensive about my ability behind the wheel. I haven’t told anyone about this — especially my children, because they would probably worry and take steps to keep me from driving anymore. It’s not that I’m a bad driver, but I just don’t feel as sure of myself as I used to, and I don’t want to have an accident and possibly hurt someone. Can you suggest anything to help me restore my confidence? APPREHENSIVE IN APPLETON
DEAR APPREHENSIVE: You are not alone in your feelings, but at least you are honest enough to acknowledge your doubts and ask for help. More than 30 million drivers will be 65 or older by 2030 — one out of every four drivers — according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and they all will be experiencing the same feelings, whether they admit it or not. There is the fear of injuring someone else in an accident, of course, but let’s be honest — there is also the fear of losing your independence. What can you do about it?
Let’s start with the physical part:
Maintain a regular fitness regimen to stay in optimal shape. It will boost your energy, your alertness, and your ability to respond quickly to road situations.
Schedule a physical exam every year to see if there are any conditions that might preclude you from driving.
Schedule a separate appointment regularly with your eye doctor to check your vision, including peripheral vision. Even though you might already wear glasses, don’t assume that your vision hasn’t changed. You might require a new prescription.
Check your medications to be aware of any side effects that might adversely affect your driving such as drowsiness, blurred vision, or disorientation.
Don’t neglect the physical condition of your car, either:
Make sure the seat is adjusted for maximum comfort to reduce fatigue, and position it so that you can see all the way around. Older adults typically lose height or "shrink" with age, so sometimes simply raising the seat can improve one’s ability to see more easily over the top of the dashboard.
Adjust your rear-view mirror and side mirrors to ensure maximum visibility from every angle.
Keep your windshield clean for optimal visibility and to reduce glare.
Check your tires regularly and have your car serviced on a regular basis to ensure its mechanical soundness. You will feel more confident behind the wheel if you know that your car is running smoothly.
And, finally, sign up for your local AARP Driver Safety Program http://www.aarp.org/family/housing/driver_safety_program/. The AARP Driver Safety Program (sometimes referred to as 55 ALIVE) is the nation’s first and largest refresher course for drivers age 50-plus and has helped millions of drivers remain safe on today’s roads. AARP has offered the course in the classroom for 25 years and now offers the same course online. It is designed to help you:
Tune up your driving skills and update your knowledge of the rules of the road.
Learn about normal age-related physical changes, and how to adjust your driving to allow for these changes.
Reduce traffic violations, crashes, and chances for injury.
Drive more safely.
Get an insurance discount. Auto insurance companies in most states provide a multi-year discount to AARP graduates.
AARP members also receive discounts on the AARP Motoring Plan from GE Motor Club.
Follow these tips, and you could be driving for a long time to come!