Canada: Ageless Safety: Tips For Seniors Driving After 80

Last Updated: October 7 2016
Article by David J. Levy

Automobile drivers, like fine wine, tend to get better with age. Older drivers can draw on a wealth of experience from their years on the road to assist them when faced by a variety of dangerous conditions. In fact, some insurance companies offer drivers between the ages of 55 to 70 discounted rates due to their experience and knowledge.

However, older drivers, and particularly elderly drivers, should be aware that they may begin to face specific challenges that are linked to the aging process, and take the appropriate precautions. In this blog post, we will review the law related to driving safety for seniors, provide proactive driving fitness recommendations, and suggest driving safety tips.

The Law

Ontario's Highway Traffic Act states that any driver who reaches the age of 80 is required to complete a driving examination every two years, which may include testing the driver's:

  • Knowledge of the Highway Traffic Act;
  • Ability to drive safely; and
  • Medical examinations and physical tests to determine driving fitness.

Factors to Consider

Although each driver possesses different abilities and skills, everyone's body undergoes changes as they age. These changes can have a significant impact on driving decisions. It is therefore critical that senior drivers assess and consider the following:

  • Vision: Gradual changes to one's vision can impact the ability to judge distance, see moving objects, and reduce visibility at dusk or dawn or during inclement weather.
  • Hearing: Compromised hearing may impact the ability to hear horns, sirens, braking, and calls from other drivers.
  • Flexibility, Movement and Strength: A decrease in these areas may affect the ability to check blind spots, look for traffic and pedestrians at intersections, merge with oncoming traffic, yield the right of way, reverse your car and park.
  • Medical Conditions and Cognitive Impairments: Medical issues can cause tremors, muscle spasms and the ability to reason which, in turn, result in impaired coordination, improper driving maneuvers, and reduced concentration, reaction and response time.
  • Medications: Prescription medication may cause drowsiness, confusion, reduced concentration, blurred vision, fatigue and dizziness.

Proactive Driving Fitness Recommendations

Senior drivers can also take proactive steps to maintain and prolong driving fitness, which include:

  • Exercising and pursuing leisure activities;
  • Stimulating mental acuity by reading, solving puzzles and playing games;
  • Attending regular medical, vision and hearing appointments with health professionals;
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and regular sleeping schedule; and
  • Familiarizing oneself with any side effects of prescription medications.

Driving Safety Tips:

To ensure a safe driving journey, senior drivers should consider implementing the following safety tips:

  • Vision:

    • Ensure the windshield, windows and lights are clean.
    • Avoid night driving or drive on well-lit roads.
    • Wear up-to-date prescription glasses.
  • Flexibility and Movement:

    • Pay attention to adjacent and oncoming traffic together with pedestrians at intersections.
    • Regularly check mirrors and blind spots.
    • Avoid reversing out of parking spaces wherever possible.
  • Judgment and Reaction:

    • Maintain a distance of at least three seconds behind the car in front, or two chevrons.
    • Drive at the posted speed limit (slow driving is hazardous).
    • Activate turn signal in advance.
    • Apply brakes gradually and smoothly.
    • Slow down in inclement weather and for poor road conditions or take a break from the road if possible.
    • Drive in the right lane whenever possible.
  • Concentration:

    • Avoid distractions such as cell phones, the radio and eating/drinking.
    • Do not drive when anxious, fatigued or distraught.
    • Plan the route to your destination and avoid times of heavy traffic.

Wisdom really does come with age. With the benefit of their years of experience on the road, older drivers have an advantage over younger drivers who may not have encountered certain road conditions and situations. Older drivers have also gained the wisdom to know that safety, preparedness and alertness are just as important to have as a car key when getting behind the wheel.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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