Safe driving for older drivers
The first thing is to be aware of how you are driving.
- Do notice that you're finding driving harder or more frightening?
- Has someone voiced concerns about your driving? Many of us fall into bad habits over time and may not be aware of them.
- Listen to people if they bring it up with you. They may not be right, but they probably have your best interests at heart, and if they think there is a problem you should at least consider it.
Some people continue driving when they really aren’t safe, and this is obviously a problem. But many more people stop driving because they are worried, when they could carry on with a little help and advice.
If you are concerned, but not sure if you have a real problem, you can book a refresher lesson with a driving instructor who is qualified to train experienced drivers or get a professional driving assessment.
A driving assessment is not intended to stop you from driving. It's designed to help you to continue driving and keep you safe:
- RoSPA offer an experienced driver assessment, which is honest, objective and confidential.
- Mobility Centres can give you a professional assessment of your driving and advise you. They will look at your physical ability, eyesight and reactions and tell you if you need to change the way you drive and about any adaptations that would help you to continue driving safely.
- Your local council or police authority or other local groups may also provide driving assessments or advice. Ask your council about local organisations or services.
"The service was friendly, supportive and very professional. It put me at ease when I was very nervous."
Change the way you drive
If you find it particularly difficult to drive in certain conditions (eg in the dark, when it’s raining, at busy times of day), try to avoid these conditions.
If you need to slow down a bit to give yourself time to react, then do that, 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.
Allow plenty of time for your journey, so you aren’t under pressure. Plan your route, including where you will park. Allow time for rests. Don’t be afraid to stop – as long as it’s safe to do so.
Change your car or accessorise
If your car is big or old, 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 and safer to drive:
- 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.
You can also get accessories and adaptations to help make it easier to drive:
- Satnavs help you navigate unfamiliar routes and can save you a lot of worry.
- People with stiff necks can attach stick-on ‘blind spot’ mirrors to the door mirrors or panoramic rear view mirrors. These give a greater range of vision behind. Get these from motor accessory shops.
- You can mark different speeds (30, 40, 60) on the speedometer with coloured stickers to make them easier to see.
- Steering balls or spinners let you steer with one hand, and can make it easier to hold the wheel. Get these from motor accessory shops.
- 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.
- More specialist adaptations are available for people who have difficulty operating the controls or getting in and out.
If you are finding it difficult or tiring to drive, or you are concerned about safety, you can just drive less or stop driving altogether.
Some people will find this difficult to do, because of where they live or the places they need to travel to. Also bear in mind that other ways of getting around, especially walking, are risky too, so if you are unsure get some advice before stopping driving altogether.
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 this possibility.
- 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’re thinking about moving house, think about what the transport links are like. Could you manage without a car if you had to?
- If your partner usually drives, make sure you keep your hand in, in case they have to stop.
There is a unique online car search which has car measurements and means you can search for cars that meet your needs.
Last updated: December 2018