As we all age, it is essential to make sure that our driving is still safe and that we are aware of all the new regulations on the road, such as Smart Motorways and speed limits.
If you have been driving for a long time, then lots of things would have changed since passing your driving test, and if you have never taken any extra driver training, then you could probably benefit from a mature driver driving course.
We carry out many mature driver training courses each year to reassure family members that you are still as safe as you ever were, especially when driving precious grandchildren around or taking over most of the driving due to a partner’s ill health.
The driver training we offer will not replace any doctor or optician-ordered courses. Your local health authority usually carries them out, but we can help to gain confidence and ensure that you are still driving as well as you ever have, and with a few advanced driver skills added, you could be a better driver than before.
It is challenging if you are looking for a course for an elder relative, as they may be worried that we have the power to remove or suspend a licence, but that is not the case. Only the DVLA can do this on a doctor’s orders or if you fail to renew your licence in the correct time frames.
From the age of 70, you will have to renew your licence every three years, and as long as you are still fit and healthy, you should have no issue with this.
There are many reasons that you should look to take a mature driver course, such as failing eyesight, stiff joints or movement issues, hearing, and the possibility that you have any medical problems such as very early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Driving and Dementia
In the initial early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, many people are still able to keep driving. But, as memory and decision-making skills worsen, it is critical they need to cease driving.
Most people with dementia often do not know they are having driving problems. Family and friends must carefully monitor the person’s driving style and take action when they observe a potential issue, such as forgetting how to find familiar places like the grocery store or even their home. Please work with the doctor to let the person know it’s no longer safe to keep driving.
As we age, our hearing can change, making it harder to notice horns, sirens, or even noises coming from your car. Hearing loss can be a big problem because these sounds warn you when you may need to move out of the way or pull over from an incident.
Safe driving tips if worried about hearing:
- It is always wise to have your hearing checked at least every three years after age 50.
- It is important to discuss any issues you have about your hearing with your doctor or optician, as often they can help with hearing problems. There may be simple things that will help.
- Keeping the vehicle inside as quiet as possible while driving, and turning down a radio, especially in built-up areas, can be essential.
Our eyesight will always change as we get older. Seeing people, things, and movements outside your direct line of sight may be more challenging. Reading street or traffic signs may take longer or even recognise once very familiar places. In the evenings, you may have trouble seeing things clearly. Glare from oncoming headlights or streetlights can also be an issue. The sun might be blinding depending on the time of day, and the winter sun is especially low.
Common eye diseases, including macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and some medicines, can cause vision problems. You could be asked to take a medical assessment, and this will be at your local health authority. We cannot help if asked to do a medical course.
Safe driving tips for failing eyesight:
1. If you are 65 or older, you must visit your optician every year.
2. If you need help with glasses or contact lenses to see while driving, you must ensure your prescription is up-to-date and always wear them when you are behind the wheel.
3. Reduce or stop driving at night if you have trouble seeing in the dark. It is also wise to avoid driving during sunrise and sunset when the sun can be directly in your central vision.
Stiff Muscles and Joints
As we age, our joints may get stiffer, and our muscles may weaken. Arthritis is very common among older adults and might affect your driving ability. Issues like this can make it harder to turn your head to look back, turn the steering wheel quickly, or brake safely.
Safe driving tips for movement issues:
1. Make sure you see your doctor if pain, stiffness, or arthritis makes your driving harder.
2. When possible, drive a car with automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, and large mirrors. These will help you to remain more confident.
3. Be as physically active as possible or exercise to keep and even improve your strength and flexibility.
4. Consider getting an automatic car if you have leg movement issues
Time and Reflexes with Slower Reaction
As we age, our reflexes might get slower, and we might not react as quickly as we could in the past. You might have a shorter attention span, making it harder to do two things simultaneously. Issues with stiff joints or weak muscles can make it more challenging to move quickly, and tingling or loss of feeling in your fingers or feet can make it hard to steer or use foot pedals. Limitations following a stroke or Parkinson’s disease will make driving no longer safe, and it is wise to get these diagnosed as soon as possible.
Safe driving tips for slower reflexes:
1. Ensure you always leave more space between you and the car in front. The 2-second rule will help.
2. Start braking early when you know you need to stop, and tapping your brake lights will show the cars behind your intention to stop in good time.
3. Try to avoid high-traffic areas when you can.
4. If you must drive on a fast-moving motorway, always drive in the right-hand lane. The traffic moves slower here, giving you more time to make safe moves.
Medications That Can Affect Driving
If you take any prescription drugs that make you feel drowsy, lightheaded, or less alert than usual, check that to see if they have a warning about driving. Many medications for older people have side effects that can make driving unsafe. Paying attention to how these drugs may affect your driving is vital.
Safe driving tips when on prescription medication:
1. Read medicine labels carefully. Look for any warnings about driving.
2. List all your prescriptions and chat with your doctor or chemist about how they can affect your driving.
3. Never drive if you feel lightheaded, tired, or drowsy
Having “The Talk” About Driving
Speaking to an older person about their driving is often a complex subject to approach. Keeping a car is considered as being independent, but there are many ways that a mature driving course can help keep their independence and licence longer. Below are some tips that might help when conversing about a family member’s driving.
You must be initially prepared.
Find out about local services available for someone who is having problems. Identify the person’s transportation needs and what else is available, local bus, taxi, or train routes.
Try to avoid confrontation.
Find a quiet time to bring up the subject; Using “I” sentences is essential rather than “You”. E.g., “I am concerned about your safety when you are driving,” rather than, “You’re no longer a safe driver.”
Stick to the issue
Discuss the driver’s skills, not their age. Many elderly drivers think that family members will want to take away the car and leave them dependent on others. This is one of the main reasons to take a mature driver course, as it will show others that you are still safe and sound on the road. Once a course has been taken, with the help of a tutor, it can help them to drive safer on the road, or it will show where problems may lie and then the driver will realise it is not just family pressure, which can help. Once they are with a tutor, they can often see the problems themselves.
Focus on maintaining independence and safety
Be very clear that the goal is for the older driver to continue the activities they currently enjoy while staying safe. Offer to help the person stay independent by helping with trips or journeys.
Be positive and supportive. Recognise the importance of a driver’s license to the older person. Understand that they may become angry, defensive, hurt, or withdrawn. It would always help if you made them aware that you are doing this for their own safety, the other road users, and pedestrians.
We know how hard these conversations can be, but we can help to talk through these issues. Call our friendly team to chat about older drivers’ needs and how we can help them keep their licence longer.