driving tips

These tips can help you stay safe on the roadways, especially at night:

Don’t use your cell phone while driving. This is a bad idea at any age. But older drivers particularly are slower to react to a driving emergency, even without the distraction of a cell phone.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a crash if they are using a cell phone when driving, and using a hands-free feature does not reduce this risk. Also, a study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health found cell phone use reduces reaction time and performance in older motorists more than in younger drivers.

Use extra caution at intersections. According to research cited by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 40 percent of the fatal collisions of people 70 and older occur at intersections and involve other vehicles, compared with 23 percent of the crashes of drivers ages 35 to 54. The most common reason for these crashes was a failure to yield, especially when making a left turn.

Avoid driving on unfamiliar streets at night. The National Safety Council says traffic death rates are three times higher at night than during the day. As aging Baby Boomers continue to take to the roads at night — in greater numbers than their parents — the risk of fatal crashes is expected to increase substantially.

Even if you wear eyeglasses that seem to work well, you may not be equipped for glare, hard-to-read signs and the other unique challenges of twilight and nighttime driving. For these reasons, you should avoid routes with poor lighting, irregular twists and poor signage.

Assess your driving ability based on reactions of others. Honking horns, worried loved ones, warnings from police and blinding headlights suggest rethinking where and for how long you should drive.

If you are having difficulty, limit yourself to shorter trips, preferably during daylight and when weather conditions are favorable. Keep your car in good repair, plan extra time for travel, stay the recommended distance behind the vehicle in front of you and follow expert advice for driving safely.

Reduce your speed when driving at night. As we get older, our pupils get smaller and don’t dilate as quickly in the dark. Because of this and other normal age-related changes, only about one-third as much ambient light reaches the retina of the eye of a person who is 60 years old, compared with the eye of a 20-year-old. This loss of light transmittance can affect the reaction time of older drivers at night.


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