Getting behind the wheel as you age

As we get older, certain natural health changes could impact our ability to drive. We tend to lose strength and coordination, which can make it difficult to safely control a car.

For example, pain in your neck could make it hard to change lanes or look for cross traffic at intersections. Stiffness in your legs could impact how fast you switch between the gas and brake pedals. Hearing and vision issues also are common safety concerns for older drivers.

Be proactive about evaluating your own abilities. Get your vision checked regularly. Ask your doctor for his or her opinion on your ability to drive safely, and find out if any of your medications could impact your clarity and judgment on the road.

Plan for safety 
Know your limitations, and avoid certain driving situations that make you uncomfortable. Choose alternate routes or drive times when traffic will be lighter. Whenever possible, limit your driving after dark and in bad weather.

You might also consider taking a driver safety course, like the ones sponsored by AARP. Cars and traffic laws have changed over the years, and a refresher course can bring you up-to-date on the latest vehicle safety gear and new rules of the road.
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Listen to concerns 
Be willing to listen if loved ones express concerns about your driving. If someone close to you is asking questions about your ability to drive, but you still feel capable, seek out a professional evaluation.

An occupational therapist or driver rehabilitation specialist can provide a neutral third party opinion to help you make your decision. A therapist may also be able to suggest vehicle modifications or tools to improve your safety and keep you driving longer. If you don’t know where to find these services, ask your doctor or call your nearest aging resource center.

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