How to stay safe behind the wheel:
Health factors that may affect your driving

Think about a task that requires dozens of decisions every minute. That’s driving. Right or left? Merge or stay in your lane? Slow down or speed up? At the same time, you’re paying attention to other cars around you, checking mirrors, obeying traffic signals—the list goes on and on.

What does this mean for seniors? According to the National Institute on Aging, changes in your health may affect your driving skills over time. That’s why it’s important to stay aware of your own abilities…and adjust your driving accordingly.

See clearly. As your eyesight changes, it might be harder to see people, things and movement outside your direct line of sight. It may take longer to read street or traffic signs. At night, you may have trouble seeing things clearly. So, it’s important to follow these guidelines regarding your sight:

  • Visit your eye doctor each year. Make sure your eyeglass prescription is up-to-date, and always wear them when driving.
  • If you have trouble seeing after dark, cut back on or stop driving at night.
  • Avoid driving during sunrise and sunset, when the sun can be directly in your line of vision.

Listen closely. Your sense of sound is vital while driving so you can hear horns, sirens or even noises coming from your own car. Those sounds warn you when you may need to pull over or get out of the way. Follow these tips to stay safe:

  • Have your hearing checked at least every three years.
  • Try to keep the inside of the car as quiet as possible while driving. Turn down the radio—or leave it off entirely.

Be aware and make smart decisions. As you get older, you might not react as quickly as you once did. Plus, stiff joints or weak muscles can make it harder to move quickly. This means making some adjustments to your driving, such as:

  • Leave more space between you and the car in front of you.
  • Avoid heavy traffic areas, rush hour, construction zones, and routes with difficult merge patterns.
  • If you must drive on a fast-moving highway, drive in the right-hand lane. Traffic moves more slowly there, giving you more time to make safe driving decisions.

Consider your medications. A variety of medications can make you feel drowsy, lightheaded or less alert than usual. So, if you’re taking any medications, it’s your responsibility to do the following:

  • Read labels carefully. Look for any warnings—especially those pertaining to driving.
  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how medications can affect your driving.
  • Don’t drive if you feel lightheaded or drowsy.

Be a Safe Driver. There are plenty of things you can do to make sure you’re safe on the road. Here are some options:

  • Take a driving refresher course, such as the AARP Smart Driver Course, with convenient test times and locations in the Peoria area.
  • Don’t use a cell phone while driving.
  • Always wear your seatbelt and insist that your passengers buckle up as well.
  • Make sure your car fits you—not too big or too small.

It’s also helpful to live in an area with easy access to everything you need. For example, Sierra Winds is conveniently located within an easy, uncongested drive from medical offices, shopping, restaurants, golf courses, and entertainment. Sierra Winds also offers scheduled transportation to nearby grocery stores and activities. For more information about Sierra Winds, call (623) 977-0807 to schedule a tour and complimentary lunch in the Sierra Bistro.