Being able to drive gives everyone a sense of independence and freedom, and this is especially true for many older drivers who rely on their cars to go shopping, visit friends and family, and get to medical appointments. With this in mind, Independent Age, the older people's charity, has expert tips on how to stay safe and confident when driving. As part of their new free guide, Behind the Wheel, they're sharing their expert tips with us. You can download your free copy from Independent Age or order a copy by calling 0800 319 6789. Please note the advice in the leaflet applies to driving in England only.
1 Keep up your driving skills
Unless you’re medically unfit or unsafe to drive, you should be the one to decide when it’s time to stop driving. If you do want to keep driving, it’s important to drive regularly so that you don’t lose your skills and confidence behind the wheel, even if you only travel short distances each time.
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2 Stay active
Exercising is important as it may help to reduce stiffness and keep the muscle strength you need to steer, change gear and twist your neck and body while driving. Exercise could also help keep your reflexes sharp – essential for reacting quickly to what’s happening on the road.
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3 Have a health MOT
Talk to your GP about getting your health checked if you have any concerns or have recently been diagnosed with a new health condition. Getting help early could help keep you on the road safely for longer. Make sure you’re aware of any side effects your medication could have.
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4 Test your eyes and ears
There are strict rules about eyesight in particular, when it comes to driving, so make sure you have your sight and hearing checked regularly.
If you’re over 60 you’re entitled to a free NHS eye test every two years.
If you’re over 60 you’re entitled to a free NHS eye test every two years. You may not notice changes that happen gradually, so it’s important to have regular check-ups.
10 tips for healthy eyes
5 Keep the DVLA informed
There are certain things that you need to let the DVLA know about, so make sure you inform them if you have certain health conditions or disabilities, such as epilepsy or a stroke; if you buy or sell a car; or you make any changes to your current car.
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6 Change your driving habits
You may find driving less tiring or stressful if you reduce the amount you drive or change your habits. For example, you could decide to avoid driving at busy times of day, avoid driving in bad weather or in the dark, or only drive short distances and on roads that you know well.
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7 Get a professional opinion
A driver assessment can be a good way to get advice on how to improve your driving, and to reassure yourself and those around you that your driving is safe. You could also consider taking a refresher driving course. You can find a driver assessment or advanced driving course near you on the Older Drivers website.
8 Consider car adaptations
A wide range of simple adaptations can be made to a car, which may make driving easier and keep you safe and confident on the road for longer. For example, you could have a swivel seat put in to make it easier to get in and out of the car. Driving Mobility (0800 559 3636) has assessment centres across the country where they can recommend adaptations to suit you, or give you tips to make driving a bit easier.
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9 Change your car
If you can afford it, you may benefit from getting a different car. Many modern cars come with technology to help make driving easier, for example power steering, automatic gears and parking sensors.
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10 If it’s time to stop...
If you do make the decision to stop driving, think about the other ways you’ll be able to get around without a car. Look at public transport or taxis, which could work out cheaper than running your own car if you mainly make local trips. You may also want to consider renting or buying a mobility scooter for short distances, which will allow you to stay independent. Make sure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to, which could help with the costs of getting around. Call Independent Age (0800 319 6789) to find out about a benefits check.
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