According to statistics from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, your best driving years are between the ages of 60 and 64. After that, it’s insurance claims, and a higher level of driving-related fatalities than any other age group.
Unless you’re on top of your preventive care, as you age things start to deteriorate. Your vision, your hearing, even your ability to make snap judgments and quick movements. All of which effects your driving.
In the U.S., once you’re over the age of 85, your chances of dying in a car-related accident is almost four times higher than it is for those aged 16 to 20.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, each year more than 600,000 people over the age of 70 decide on their own to give up driving.
But that’s a very hard decision to make. Most people rely on their cars for just about everything — from doctors appointments to running errands like grocery shopping. Once you give up your license, you’re dependant on public transportation, taxis and relatives or friends to get you everywhere.
Most states do not have stringent regulations concerning renewing your driver’s license after a certain age. In only 16 states you must pass an eye exam, and in 23 you must, from time to time, renew your license in person.
And the unfortunate thing is that there are still many capable senior drivers out there. But just like with teen drivers, a few bad drivers create the stereotype.
But the bottom line is that if you feel uncomfortable while driving, maybe you shouldn’t be. If you avoid making left- hand turns or have trouble deciphering the traffic-light colors, it may be time to consider alternate methods of transportation.
But in the meantime, here are some tips on how you can keep yourself driving safely:
— Make sure your eyeglass prescription is up-to-date, and stay on top of your eye health
— Keep yourself mentally alert. Using your brain on a regular basis is the best way to keep yourself sharp. Grab a book instead of turning on the TV; do a daily crossword or other puzzle
— Self-regulate. Consider not driving at night or during peak rush-hour hours
— Drive only to places you are familiar with, and if you do need to go somewhere unfamiliar, it may be a good time to ask a family member or take a taxi
— If you are going on a longer trip, take frequent rest stops, or have someone along who can do part of the driving with you
— Consider taking a refresher course designed specifically for seniors. AARP.org likely offers one in your state
Remember that when you get behind the wheel, it’s not just your own health and safety that is at risk.