How old were you when you first got your driving licence? How many years have you been on the road – and do you think you could still pass your test now? With age comes experience, as they say, but is there a point where age can become a deteriorating factor in your driving? Figures show that a record 100,000 people number of people aged over 90 holding a driving licence in Britain, so ensuring that you’re a sound and competent driver is a priority for staying safe on the roads.
At Trust My Garage, we want to ensure drivers of all ages have a safe and happy driving experience, so we’ve put together some advice to help older drivers stay at the top of their game when it comes to getting behind the wheel.
It’s paramount for all motorists to ensure their eyesight is good enough to operate a vehicle on the road, but for older drivers it can be difficult to determine if there’s an issue with your sight. DVLA standards of vision for driving rules state: “You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.” If a driver needs glasses or contact lenses in order to read a number plate at this distance, then they “must wear glasses or contact lenses every time you drive if you need them to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’.”
The best way to make sure you’re still safe to drive is with regular eye tests. If you already wear glasses, your optician will advise you on how frequently an eye test is needed, depending on the severity of your visual impairment. If you don’t wear glasses, you can visit a local optician and ask for an appointment. If you’re aged 60 or over and a UK resident, you should qualify for an NHS funded eye test. You can enquire at your optician about redeeming this free test.
If you find yourself struggling to read traffic signs when out on the road, along with number plates or other important road details such as potential hazards, you should book an eye test with your optician as soon as possible. Eyesight deterioration can sometimes be a symptom of other effects of ill health, so any issues should be checked by a professional.
Not only can poor eye health affect you, it can also affect other drivers if you’re involved in an accident. If you don’t see a hazard until it’s too late, it will affect your reaction time to the hazard and potentially cause a dangerous accident – which could also involve other drivers! For the safety of yourself and other drivers, it’s better to be cautious and check that your eyes are working as best they can.
Tiredness and rest periods
As you age, it’s important to let your body rest and catch up with your mind. After all, we aren’t all lucky enough to stay 16 forever! In many older people, they are often “only as old as they feel”, but when it comes to driving, older motorists must acknowledge that their bodies change with age.
Tiredness plays a key factor for any driver, but it can be especially prevalent among older motorists. Giving yourself a break on longer drives is imperative to letting your brain rest, as concentrating for long periods of time can really cause your driving to suffer. Even younger drivers can fall prey to tiredness! It’s often a mistake that drivers overlook, but one that can cause real issues. If you’re driving for over two hours you should break for at least fifteen minutes, and as you get older you can increase the amount of your rest stops to suit your needs. If you aren’t used to driving long distances you should also factor in more rest stops, and take time to have a break and stretch your legs or get some refreshments where you can.
Did you know that it’s illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving? From hayfever to headaches, it’s important to check packaging for any potential side effects and issues, as often many motorists don’t realise how significantly medication can affect your driving. This is especially true for prescribed medication, as it is usually stronger than anything purchased over-the-counter. If you’re unsure about the effects of any medications you take, you can check with your GP for their professional opinion.
Refresh your driving
If you find that you’re struggling with driving as you get older, it’s possible that some refresher driving lessons may help. It’s important that you know the rules of the road, and in some cases a piece of forgotten knowledge could come in handy! Many driving schools offer refresher lessons on areas of motoring that you feel less certain about, and you can take as many lessons as you need – even if it’s only one!
If you’d like more of a theoretical refresher, you can also re-read The Highway Code, either in print or online via the .Gov website. It’s easily divided into different sections so you can clearly see which sort of information is relevant to you. As well as rules for the road, it also contains road user etiquette tips to make being on the road easier for everybody, including pedestrians and cyclists.
Equip your vehicle
Sometimes, as our bodies change, we suffer from issues that can affect our driving. If you’re struggling with any part of your body it can prohibit your ability to drive – especially issues with your eyes, as stated above. However, if your arms and/or legs are affected, it can take longer for you to manoeuver a vehicle and also react to hazards. If necessary – and within your costs – you can have your car outfitted with extra aids in order to make driving easier, or you can see what other kind of help is available in order to ensure you remain safe if you stay on the roads.
It’s also the case that you may want to stick to routes you find easier to drive – but if it any point you begin to feel unsafe, even on familiar roads, you should consider what you need to do in order to best suit your needs.
At Trust My Garage, we believe the most important rule of all when it comes to driving – no matter your age – is to stay safe. If everyone uses the road in a safe manner, it should be much easier and more agreeable when it comes to driving.
It’s also paramount that your vehicle is safe too, and if you want to ensure your motor is running in great condition, you can take it to your local Trust My Garage member, operating as part of our Chartered Trading Standards approved consumer code. They can help you keep your car running as smoothly as your driving, and keep you motoring ahead for the future.
More about Trust My Garage
Trust My Garage is a collection of Britain’s best local garages – every one different and every one dedicated to the highest standards of skill and personal service.
All the garages in Trust My Garage are members of the Independent Garage Association which is part of the RMI, one of Britain’s oldest motor trade organisations. IGA members are true professionals who have to comply with a strict code of practice.
Each and every customer of all Trust My Garage members can rely on using a nationally recognised brand to help you and your vehicle get the best value service for your money.
Visit www.TRUSTMYGARAGE.co.uk and type in your postcode to find your nearest trusted independent garage.