Barry J. Schoch, P.E., Secretary, Department of Transportation
Older Driver Safety Tips
As more and more Pennsylvania drivers mature, they and their families face a whole new set of challenges when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.
The fact is that we all age differently. However, there are certain physical factors that deteriorate as we age and affect our proficiency behind the wheel.
Please take a moment to review the following helpful tips for older drivers on what you can do to safely meet the demands of driving and tips for family members on how to recognize when it’s time for a loved one to limit driving or hand over the keys:
As you age, have regular eye and medical exams to maintain your driving abilities. Good near and distance vision is needed to drive safety.
Aging eyes become more sensitive to bright light and glare, so limit nighttime driving. Try to avoid looking directly into headlights of approaching vehicles.
Avoid stressful driving situations such as rush hour travel, driving at night or driving in bad weather. Plan trips for daytime hours after 9 a.m. and before 5 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic. Plan ahead. Know your route and try to stay on familiar roads.
Avoid travelling in bad weather, if at all possible.
Avoid taking medications before driving. Many medications, prescription and over-the-counter, cause drowsiness and can affect safe driving.
Maintain a safe speed and look ahead. Controlling your speed and looking down the road for possible hazards allow you to make adjustments before encountering a problem.
Always keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you. A four-second gap between you and the vehicle in front of you is recommended.
When driving long distances, especially in winter, call ahead for weather and road condition updates.
In addition, the following are some warning signs a mature driver and the mature driver’s family should look for in terms of when it may be time to limit or stop driving altogether:
Feeling uncomfortable, nervous or fearful when driving
Unexplained dents and scrapes on the car, fences, mailboxes, garage doors, etc.;
Frequent “close calls” (i.e. almost crashing);
Slowed response to unexpected situations;
Difficulty staying in the lane of traffic;
Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs and pavement markings;
Trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections or highway entrance/exit ramps;
Medical conditions or medications which may be affecting abilities to handle a car safely;
Frequent traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers in the last two years.