Safe driving for older drivers
As much as possible, be aware of how you're driving…
- Do you notice that you're finding driving harder or more frightening?
- Has someone voiced concerns about your driving? Many of us fall into bad driving habits over time and are not always aware of them.
- You or your friends and/or family may have noticed changes. Listen to people if they bring up issues with your driving.
- They may not be right. But they probably have your best interests at heart, and if they think there's a problem at least consider what they're saying.
Every year we check that our car is roadworthy with an MOT. Why not consider a driving appraisal or assessment and give yourself a driver MOT?
- For some experienced drivers a series of refresher lessons can improve their confidence and provide an opportunity to be given up-to-date individual highway code advice.
- Unfortunately, there are occasions when it is necessary for people to retire from driving because it is no longer safe for them to continue.
- Some people continue driving when they really aren’t safe, and this is obviously a problem.
- However, many more people stop driving because they are worried - even when they're still safe to drive. With the correct advice, training, or adaptations, they may be able to carry on driving longer.
If you're unsure whether you have any driving issues, or are concerned and just want some advice, you can book a refresher lesson with a driving instructor who is qualified to coach experienced drivers, have a driving review, or get a professional driving assessment.
A driving appraisal does not include a test of any kind. It involves a drive on the roads you normally use in your own car. It does not include the medical and psychological tests that form part of a Mobility Centre assessment.
The following organisations offer an experienced driver appraisal, which is honest, objective and confidential:
- The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)
- Insitute of Advanced Motoring
- Some county councils may provide a driving appraisal.
A range of driving assessments is available. These are not intended to stop you driving. A driving appraisal or assessment is designed to help you to continue driving safely by providing you with constructive feedback.
- Driving Mobility provides a range of professional mobility assessment services. Using specially qualified occupational therapists and approved driving instructors, they offer Fitness to Drive Assessments and Adaptation Assessments. They will look at your ability to drive safely and give you recommendations and (if appropriate) advice on adaptations to enable you to continue to drive. They will provide you with a comprehensive report recognised by the DVLA, which may help you with licence re-application or where medical investigations are being carried out.
- Mobility Centres can give you a professional assessment of your driving and advise you. They will look at your physical ability, eyesight, your mental skills you use when driving, and your reactions. They'll let you know if you need to change the way you drive and about any adaptations that would help you to continue driving safely.
As one driver who had an assessment said: "The service was friendly, supportive and very professional. It put me at ease when I was very nervous."
Find a local assessment or appraisal centre in your area by visiting www.olderdrivers.org.uk
Change the way you drive
If you find it particularly difficult to drive in certain conditions, such as in the dark, when it’s raining, or at busy times, try to avoid these situations if you can.
Try to plan ahead for potential hazards such as roundabouts, traffic lights, junctions.
If you need to slow down a bit to give yourself time to react, then do so, especially when you’re coming up to a junction or other hazard. Take your time before moving off, making sure you’ve checked all round. Don’t feel pressured by other drivers.
However, remember you need to drive at an appropriate speed for the road and traffic conditions. Driving too slowly can be hazardous and cause danger, just as can driving too fast can.
At crossroads and T-junctions without traffic lights, look both ways twice before moving off. Keep checking for traffic while driving through the junction.
Braking gradually in anticipation of these can help give you additional time to process visual information about the road and those around you. Give yourself the time you need to react.
When merging into traffic (from a parked position or at junctions), take your time before moving away, making sure you’ve checked all round, including for vulnerable road users, such as cyclists. Take time to make a second check left and right prior to merging as the traffic situation can quickly change.
Don’t feel pressured by other drivers to merge before you are prepared to, or to drive over the legal speed limit because they're following you too closely.
Plan longer journeys
- Plan your route, including where you will park.
- Allow plenty of time for your journey, so you aren’t rushing or feeling under pressure.
- Allow time for rests, potentially coming off route and to find a parking space at your destination.
- Don’t be afraid to find somewhere safe to stop – as long as it’s safe to do so.
Change your car or accessorise
If your car is big or older, you might find it easier to trade it for a newer, smaller one. Many modern cars have features which are designed to make them easier, more comfortable and safer to drive, such as:
- variable power steering
- brake assist and traction control
- automatic or semi-automatic gear boxes
- cruise control
- hill start assist
- automatic headlights and wipers
- parking sensors and cameras
speed limit information
lane departure warning
larger digital speedometers
You can also get accessories and adaptations to help make it easier to drive:
- Satnavs help you navigate unfamiliar routes, warn you which lane is required and can save you a lot of worry.
- Additional ‘blind spot’ mirrors can be attached to the door mirrors or panoramic rear view mirrors can be used. These give a greater range of vision beside and close behind your car. Get these from motor accessory shops or online.
- Additional mirrors can be helpful for changing lanes and pulling out of slip roads. If you fit them, do practice using them on quiet roads until you are comfortable with them.
- You can mark different speeds (30, 40, 60) on the speedometer with coloured stickers to make them easier to see.
- If you're experiencing difficulties steering, perhaps following a stroke, a steering ball or a spinner can let you steer with one hand, and can make it easier to hold the wheel.
- Although steering balls and spinners are available from motor accessory shops, it is recommended that you seek a driving assessment to fully assess your needs and any suitable adaptations.
If you change your way of driving in a big way, check with a mobility centre if there are other adaptations that may help.
- Adjustable seating with lumbar support and adjustable steering wheel position help keep you comfortable and in control. Make sure you can sit comfortably and push the pedals all the way down without pain. You need to be able to see clearly over the steering wheel.
- Specialist and bespoke adaptations are available for people who have difficulty operating the vehicles' controls or getting in and out of the car.
If you are finding it difficult or tiring to drive, or you are concerned about safety, you may wish to have a driving appraisal or reduce the amount of driving you do.There are times when it's not possible to change the way you're driving. At these times it's best to drive less - or stop driving altogether.
Note that people who drive fewer than 3,000 miles a year are more likely to be involved in collisions.
Some people will find it difficult to retire from driving because of the convenience it provides, where they live, or the places they need to travel to. Consider that other ways of getting around, especially walking, can be risky, too.
For many people who find themselves having to stop driving unexpectedly, it comes as a shock and it is difficult to adjust. It’s a good idea to plan ahead for the possibility of retiring from driving.
Ways to prepare include:
- Think about things like where you live, how you shop and your other transport needs. How could you manage if you had to stop driving, perhaps temporarily? Do you know what public and community transport is available locally?
- If you've got bus services in your area, try using them to learn how they work and the routes you can use without too much trouble.
- If you’re thinking about moving house, think about what the transport links are like. Could you manage without a car if you had to?
- If it's your partner who usually drives, make sure you practise your own driving, in case they have to stop.
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Last updated: April 2019