For many of us, driving our own car is a key aspect of maintaining our independence. Driving is how we stay connected, by seeing the people we want to see and getting to the places we want to go. But, as we age, it is normal for our driving abilities to change. Changes in our physical, mental, and sensory abilities can challenge our ability to drive safely.

In honor of National Occupational Therapy month in April, we asked our Occupational Therapists to provide tips to consider to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe on the road through the aging process.

1.  See your Doctor Regularly

Regular check-ups are key to staying in the best health to drive. The better your physical and mental health, the longer you will be able to drive safely. Follow the recommendation of your physician, and have your sight and hearing tested regularly. Also, be sure to talk with your doctor about any possible side effects or interactions of the medication(s) you are taking as these could have an impact on your ability to drive safely.

2.  Take a Driving Assessment

A driving assessment is a great way to assess your skill and safety level and can often be completed by an Occupational Therapist. When completing a driving evaluation, which reviews all aspects of your driving, an Occupational Therapist’s goal is to determine and address areas of concern to improve or maintain your ability to drive for as long as possible. Occupational therapists can suggest vehicle adaptations and equipment to address your specific needs, such as broader mirrors, seat boosters, hand controls, scooter lift, etc.

3.  Stay Healthy

Staying physically active improves your strength and flexibility. In turn, physical activity can improve driver safety by making it easier to turn the steering wheel, look over your shoulder and make other movements while driving and parking.  Walking is a great choice to include in your physical activity daily routine. Did you know that the ability to walk one has been shown to have a significant impact on one’s ability to drive.? Keep walking, keep fit!

4.  Understand Your Limitations

It is not an uncommon practice for adults to modify their driving habits as they age. Therefore, if a driving situation makes you uncomfortable, avoid it. Choose to drive only on familiar streets, during daylight hours, when traffic is light, when you are well rested and with as few distractions as possible. If you have to go somewhere when the conditions aren’t favorable, consider asking for assistance with transportation from your family, friends or neighbors. Finally, avoid putting yourself or others in danger and make adjustments to your driving techniques or ask for assistance.

Following these simple recommendations can assist in maintaining your independence, ensure you stay connected to the things you enjoy and help keep you safe.  Be conscious of changes in your ability to drive safely, recognize and avoid the dangers these changes may cause and most of all Be Safe Out There!

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