Older drivers have a greater risk of death or serious injury in crashes for a number of reasons:
- as some people age, they experience vision and hearing impairments that can affect their ability to drive safely
- increased frailty can lead to a much higher risk of being killed or seriously injured if a crash does occur
- some illnesses that are more common with age, and the medicines taken to treat them, can affect a person’s ability to drive safely
If you’re over 65 years of age, it’s time for you to think about how you drive, and the sorts of things that might make driving more difficult for you. Assessing your driving skills, and being aware of early warning signs is the best way to make sure you’re not putting yourself, and those you love, at risk on the road.
Aren’t most current model cars safe?
All new cars sold in Australia must meet safety standards known as Australian Design Rules (ADR) which set minimum levels of required performance. Over the years, the safety of new cars has continued to improve. However, even the latest car designs don’t set the highest levels of safety that can be achieved. This means that not all new cars are safer than older models in the same vehicle class. Some car makers choose to include extra features that help you avoid a crash (crash avoidance features), and provide much greater levels of protection should a crash take place (crash protection features). Some features that make driving easier and more comfortable - especially important in the case of older drivers - can make driving safer as well.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) measures how well a new car protects its occupants in a crash through laboratory crash tests. The Used Car Safety Ratings indicate the likelihood of a driver being killed or seriously injured once a crash has occurred. This information is provided on most car models based on the analysis of real life crashes
Hints for safer driving
- Plan your travel route to your destination and avoid very busy or confusing intersections
- If you know you have a slow reaction time, avoid dangerous road and traffic conditions such as driving in:
- rain or poor light
- heavy traffic and poor road conditions
- higher speed roads
- If your joints ache after an hour or more of driving, keep trips short whenever possible or take frequent stops to rest and recover
- If you find it hard to turn your head to see over your shoulder, take steps to improve the flexibility of your neck by consulting your doctor or a physiotherapist
- Take lots of rest breaks and if you have a long way to drive, share the driving if possible
- Consult your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping as tiredness can lead to poor concentration or falling asleep at the wheel.
- If making right turns at busy intersections makes you stressed or agitated, choose routes and times of travel that are easier. You may be able to find a route that has green arrow right turns at intersections or you might prefer to make a series of left turns to reach the destination
- Consult your doctor or optometrist to deal with possible vision problems. Warning signs include - finding it harder to see at twilight, trouble seeing pedestrians, difficulty in seeing objects in the distance, strong reactions to glare>
- Do not wear tinted glasses when driving at night without the approval of your eye specialist
- Take note of your doctor or pharmacist’s advice about the possible side effects of new medicines including drowsiness and/or poor concentration. If you experience such symptoms, it is strongly advised that you not drive
- A refresher course in driving and road laws may be a good way to check your capabilities as a driver and update your knowledge and skills