Driving In The Senior Years

4 min read
While there has been discrimination against senior drivers in the past, it is not entirely justified. Here’s a list of what drivers in their sunset years can do to keep driving smoothly.

With a rapidly ageing population, we can expect more senior drivers on the roads. While there were high-profile cases early last year where senior drivers were a danger on the roads because they fainted while driving or were making reckless moves, it would not be fair to assume that all senior citizens make bad drivers, as factors such as tiredness, illness and recklessness affect drivers of all ages. As long as seniors are medically fit, driving is a good way of maintaining their mental alertness, independence and mobility.

Here are some tips that can help senior citizens drive on with confidence.Take responsibility for your own health
It is inevitable that, as we age, our eyesight will degenerate and our reflexes will slow down due to loss of muscle mass and dexterity. While these functions are crucial for driving in unexpected and complex situations, most drivers will only have to deal with routine traffic situations.

Keep fit to boost your energy levels and improve your flexibility so you can move with greater ease. It is also important to undergo regular health checks and maintain responsible driving behaviour. Drivers who are 65 years old and older are required to be certified fit to drive by a Singapore-registered medical practitioner. Though you need to undergo this medical examination only once every three years (for Class 3 licences and lower), it is advisable to get your health checks done more regularly, given that a lot can change in a year when it comes to health.

Adjust to the changing landscape of the roads
The traffic situation today is vastly different. For one, there are electric scooters, more cyclists, and the occasional errant Personal Mobility Device rider. These road users may move at varying speeds and, if they don’t comply with road rules, they may pose a challenge to the older driver when a speedy reaction is required to avoid an accident. As a senior driver, you need to be careful and be aware so that you are prepared to react.

Upgrade your vehicle
Make your vehicle work with your needs. Consider switching to a senior-friendly car, which comes with features such as low door threshold for ease of entry and exit. Consider adding a steering wheel wrap for easier grip and manoeuvrability that requires less hand and wrist strength. Do be prepared to adapt your driving to a modern vehicle, especially if you have been driving your previous car for 10 or more years. If you do get a new car with all the bells and whistles, take time to practise and familiarise yourself with all the features.

Upgrade your skills
If you haven’t been driving for a while but would like to pick it up again now that you have more time, consider refresher driving lessons. A qualified instructor can help you identify problem areas, offer learning strategies for improvement, and rehabilitate rusty or lost driving skills. Check out driving schools or private driving instructors in Singapore and select one that suits your pace.

You may also attend AAS Academy Crash Prevention Course. These sessions are designed to

  • help drivers to understand the key areas of driving risks
  • impart essential skills to mitigate these risks
  • develop skills to handle potential road hazards
  • suitable for all classes of drivers

Know when to stop
There will come a time when you have to accept that you are no longer in shape to drive, and should learn to rely on other transport modes. If you recognise the symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical advice before you endanger your life or cause harm to other road users.Key signs include getting lost, slow response to emergencies, exercising poor judgement, and forgetting common safety strategies such as checking for blind spots or failing to notice traffic signals. Others include brushing into objects on one side, inability to gauge a parking space, or being adversely affected by glare from the sun or headlights. All these are signs of deteriorating cognition, vision and physical ability.

Until these symptoms arise, keep following basic driving safety strategies and focus on staying as mentally and physically fit as possible. These are the best strategies to keep driving longer.