Night Driving Safety Tips For Seniors
If you are over 60 you may be experiencing changes in your vision. These changes can make driving at night more difficult. Why? Well first off, it’s dark. That may seem obvious but Andrea Thau, president of the American Optometric Association, explains “Older eyes need more illumination to see.” (AARP, Feb/March 2017).
The American Optometric Association also lists these age-related changes that can affect night driving:
Not being able to see road signs as clearly
Difficulty seeing objects up close, like the car instrument panel or road maps
Difficulty judging distances and speed
Changes in color perception
Problems seeing in low light or at night
Difficulty adapting to bright sunlight or glare from headlights
Experiencing a loss of side vision
Here are some practical things you can do to help you drive safely in the dark.
Keep It Clean
One of the biggest challenges of night driving is the glare from oncoming headlights. Keep your windshield clean to help diminish their glare. Your headlights aren’t nearly as effective, either, if they are dirty. If you don’t have daytime running lights, turning them on at dawn and dusk can also be helpful. While we’re on the subject of headlights, be sure to make sure they’re aimed properly so that they can best light your way.
It’s All About The Eyes
While it’s true that older eyes need more light, there are also other age-related vision disorders that can be detected in an eye exam. Be sure to have an annual eye exam, especially if you are 60 and over. Some age-related vision issues that can be diagnosed in your exam are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Your sensitivity to glare, loss of central or peripheral vision and reduced vision may be treatable.
If you wear glasses, make sure they are anti-glare. Reduce strain on your eyes by dimming your dashboard lights and don’t drive if you are overtired. Make sure your eyes are well-rested.
Adjust Your Driving Style
Have you ever ‘zoned out’ when driving in a familiar area? If you’ve been driving the same roads in the same neighborhood for many years it’s easy to drive on auto-pilot, not fully paying attention to your surroundings. Be alert.
Slow down. A sad but true fact is that our reflexes slow down as we age. So give yourself time to react. Leave some extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Be cautious when you approach intersections too.
Adjust Your Driving Time
Driving at dawn or dusk can also be challenging. It may not be pitch dark but there is less light at those times too. Use your headlights and allow your eyes time to adjust to the changes in light – especially at dusk.
Another thing to be mindful of is rush hour traffic. Most rush hour traffic occurs between 4-7PM. Depending on whether or not it’s Daylight Saving Time, it could also be dusk ON TOP OF the extra road traffic. Avoid driving at those times, if you can.
Driving at night can be challenging but armed with this advice you can feel more comfortable behind the wheel. If you’re really uncomfortable driving at night, though, you might want to limit your trips to daylight hours.
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