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Health and wellbeing

Health, wellbeing and driving 

Many things can make driving more difficult as we get older. Be aware of these so you stay safe on the road. Below we look at your health and wellbeing in relation to driving.

Older drivers on the road 

"We know that older motorists have a wealth of experience, confidence and tolerance. However, sight, hearing, reaction time and judgement of speed and distance may not be as sharp as it once was. Fragility increases with age, so injuries tend to be more serious and recovery takes much longer." 
Older Drivers Forum

Pain, flexibility and strength

Stiffness, pain or weakness can affect your driving. It could make it difficult to turn your head to look around your vehicle, to reach or to use the vehicle's controls. A simple exercise programme can help keep you strong and flexible. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist if there are any exercise groups running in your area. Some leisure centres offer classes - or see if there are falls prevention groups.

Eyesight

As we age, our eyesight changes and this may make it harder to see road signs and other road users, especially in low light or glare. Look out especially for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. You may also find it harder to judge your speed or the speed of other road users and to switch your focus between the road and the dashboard instruments.

a traffic light at a city road junction, left turn only except for buses, cycles & taxisTalk to your optician about possible options to overcome this issue and have regular eye tests.You may notice changes to how well you see when there's a glare or when you're driving at night. Find out more about getting an eyesight test.

Older drivers told us:

  • "There's more cars these days, more signs."
  • "I'm not comfortable at night any more."
  • "Everything's so fast, it's hard to keep up."
  • "It's the other drivers. People are so rude these days, less patient."

Concentration and reactions

You may find it more difficult to concentrate on your driving and to keep your attention on the right things. Your reactions may get slower and you may find it harder to process information as quickly as you need to.

Check:

  • Do you significantly reduce the speed of the car in order to read road signs or to understand the layout of the road?
    If you slow down excessively this can come as a surprise or frustratation following road users.
  • Do you find it harder to judge your speed or the speed of other road users?
  • Is all of your attention narrowly focused on the road ahead and not taking in other road users? 

Memory

You may find it more difficult to remember new information presented to you, which may affect your driving safely. For example, you may see a warning sign for ‘children crossing’, but, if you don't retain this information, you may not be as prepared when you approach this hazard. If you are unable to remember speed limit information, you may not be travelling at legal or appropriate speeds.

Medicines

Medicines can affect your ability to react quickly and think clearly when you're driving. Check with your doctor about any medicines you have been prescribed. Driving under the influence of drugs is a criminal offence, even if they have been prescribed by a doctor, so always read the instructions and ask your doctor if in any doubt.

Check out the Government guidance on driving and medication.

If you have major concerns, then contact your local mobility centre who can offer specialist advise and assessments. To find your local centre, go to Driving Mobility (the network of Mobility Centres) 

Last updated: April 2019


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