DRIVE SAFLEY: Seniors staying mobile safely.
DRIVE SAFLEY: Seniors staying mobile safely.

Driving tips for seniors to stay aware on the road

EVEN though you have probably been driving for countless years, taking a moment to learn what you could do to be a safer drive could save a life, and that life could be yours.

University of the Sunshine Coast senior research fellow Dr Bridie Scott-Parker offers some top tips for better driving.

  • Keep your distance by staying at least four seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. "It gives us time to stop if the person in front suddenly stops, and it gives you extra space to stop if there is someone right behind your car," Dr Scott-Parker said.
  • Retain the four second gap even when you are driving around town.
  • Recognise and be aware of the road hazards, such as roundabouts, weather conditions, a variety of road users such as motorcycles or trucks, and the rules around merging, overtaking and tailgating.
  • Always look behind before you reverse.
  • If you struggle to see behind your car when reversing or when you are changing lanes, find out what you can do to modify your car so you can see clearly, such as bigger mirrors.
  • Be conspicuous by ensuring your driving lights are on when driving at night. Just because your dashboard automatically lights up when you start your car doesn't mean your headlights have come on as well.
  • If you have cataracts, don't drive at night as headlights can make it difficult to see.
  • Take the time to plan your day carefully so you aren't feeling pressured to speed to get to an appointment. Also plan for roadwork delays and traffic, and slow down.
  • Stay up to date on the road rules.
  • Ask yourself, do you need to drive, or could you catch a bus or car pool.

Pedestrians

If you prefer to walk somewhere you still need to know the road rules. "Look left and right before you cross the road," Dr Scott-Parker said. "If you are a pedestrian, never cross the road until you have made contact with the driver such as eye contact, smiling or a little wave. Don't assume because the driver has looked at you, that they have actually seen you. Their brain might be on something completely different.

"Keep looking left and right as you are crossing the road and when you get to the other side, hopefully the driver is still there waiting for you, again; give a little smile, a little wave and have that eye contact."

And when walking at dusk or at night, consider wearing a reflective vest or top so drivers can see you.

Passengers

Seniors should delegate some co-driving tasks to their passengers. "It's not nagging, it's co-driving," Dr Scott-Parker said. "Look left and right if the car is pulling up to a stop sign. Don't just let the driver be responsible; they might miss something."

"It can be a little tricky though if you have a husband who for 50 years has ignored everything you have said and doesn't want you to contribute," she adds. "That's when our wonderful ladies can say 'I'm not nagging. Dr Bridie said I am co-driving'."