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Behind the wheel: top tips for older drivers

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. 

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Eyesight

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. 

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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. 

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Medication management

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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Stay safe

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. 

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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.

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The top five technologies for older drivers

The motor industry has seen many key innovations over the years, and it seems that with each passing year there’s a brand new piece of technology brought out to make your driving experience safer, easier and more enjoyable.

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Research has shown that 55% of older drivers are planning on leasing or buying another car in the next five years, meaning more drivers will encounter first-hand some of the fantastic technological breakthroughs that are now available in modern cars.

As with most new technology it can all be a little bit daunting at first as you try and figure out what each shiny new button does. To ensure you get the most out of your car, we’re showing you some of the best new technology and how, as older drivers, you can use them. Whilst some of them are useful, there are others that just might save your life.

5. Voice-activated systems

New technologies will enhance your safety, but do they come at a price? It’s probably fair to assume that many people will find themselves overwhelmed with all the gadgetry in front of them and all those new buttons, dials and knobs might distract you from driving. Voice-activated systems help motorists make the most of their car’s features by using their voice – which means their attention isn’t detracted from the road.

4. Intelligent Parking Assists

Intelligent Parking Assists (IPAS) are incredibly useful and take the stress out of parking. You’ll know how frustrating it is when you’re trying to find a place to park your car and the only spots available are too tight for you to manoeuvre into, meaning you drive around in fruitless circles for half an hour. Parking in big cities is becoming increasingly limited and there’s a greater need for perfect parallel parking – this is easier said than done, however, and if you’re under pressure from traffic you can easily find your nerves being shredded and your bumper bruised. Whilst IPAS doesn’t completely take control of the car (yet), and you are still responsible for the speed of the car, it manages the tricky aspect of steering, perfectly parking the car into a tricky space. IPAS will not only ease the stressful act of parking but will help see reductions to your insurance premiums as you experience fewer bumps and scrapes.

3. Blind spot monitoring systems

Blind spot monitoring systems help detect if a car is getting too close to you in a blind spot (an area you can’t see) and when there’s a risk of there being a collision. Active blind spot monitoring uses electronic devices on the on the sides of a car that will either send out electromagnetic waves (think radar) or will take computer-processed images and then analyse them. If a car is coming up on your rear and you’re not aware of it you’re at risk of changing lanes and crashing into it – blind spot monitoring systems will alert you to the danger. Some cars also offer a Lane Departure Warning System which will beep if you drift across white lines on a motorway or other major road

2. Vehicle Stability Control

Whilst IPAS might save you frustration, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) might save your life. It’s a system that helps stabilise your car when it’s going round a curve and if it senses a loss of traction will apply the brakes individually on each wheel and/or reduce engine power. VSC can help prevent crashes and is particularly useful in wet weather when grip becomes an issue. It’s important to note that VSC is there to help you, not to take over the act of driving for you, and you should always practise safe driving in the first place. It also won’t counter the performance of your tyres, so ensure they’re in good condition by having them checked at a local independent Trust My Garage member.

1. Drowsy driver alerts

Becoming tired at the wheel is incredibly dangerous and according to Think! is responsible for 20% of accidents on major roads. There are certain steps you can take to help prevent falling asleep at the wheel such as taking breaks every two hours, stopping if you start to feel tired and taking short naps at a service stop or in a suitable lay-by. However, technology is now helping to prevent fatigue-related accidents. If your car senses that you’re becoming drowsy it will take actions, such as sounding an alarm to wake you up or blowing air on the back of your neck. Drowsy driver alerts are constantly being innovated and enhanced, and new Mercedes Benz cars actually create a driver profile for you, mapping your driving style. Once you start to show unusual traits, such as late steering, it will take into consideration the time of day and if it thinks you’re drowsy will alert you. Saab’s on-board computer system even uses facial-recognition software to analyse your facial muscles and the time it takes for you to blink.

Assistive driving technology can really benefit motorists, just as regular servicing can keep you safe on the road. To find your local independent garage for a service ahead of a drive, visit the Trust My Garage website and insert your postcode into our garage finder. 

Top tips to help keep older drivers safe on the road

happy elderly drivingThere are more older drivers out on our roads than ever before, according to a recent study by the RAC Foundation.

It is claimed that there are more than four million people aged 70 and over who hold a full, valid UK driving licence. And the oldest licenced driver is a 107-year-old woman.

Statistics show that drivers aged over 55 are the least likely to be involved in an accident – but the chances of being seriously injured if involved in one increases from the age of 65.

At Trust My Garage, we aim to keep all drivers safe on the road, especially if they are more vulnerable due to aged-related health deterioration.

Obviously, if you have a medical condition or disability that affects your fitness to drive then you must inform the DVLA straight away.

But, if you are still fit and safe to drive, we want to ensure that your car doesn’t let you down.

So, what can you do to help keep you safe on the road?

1)      Check your eyesight. In order to drive safely, you must be able to see properly. This may seem like common sense, but sometimes you may not realise that your eyesight has worsened over time, and if you can’t read a car number plate from 20 metres – with or without corrected vision – then you should consult your optician straight away.

2)      Don’t feel pressurised by other road users. It’s easy to feel intimidated by a driver following too closely behind you, but don’t go any faster than you feel comfortable with doing, and never above the speed limit. If you need to slow down a bit to give yourself that extra bit of time to react when coming up to a junction or other hazard, then you do that. Don’t become a reckless or dangerous driver because of feeling pressured to go that extra bit faster.

3)      Visit your doctor to resolve any niggling health complaints. So, if your neck is giving you discomfort and you may have difficulty in turning your head, visit your doctor who may be able to show you some exercises to ease it a little bit.

4)      Buy accessories and adaptations for your car to make it easier to drive. If you are worried about forgetting directions, then a Satnav will make your navigation considerably easier and can save you from unnecessary worry. If you do suffer with a stiff neck, then you can attach stick-on blind-spot mirrors to your door mirrors, so you know what’s coming up beside you. And, you can use coloured stickers to mark different speeds on your speedometer, so you can clearly see how fast you’re travelling.

There are plenty of tips we can give you on keeping safe on the roads, but nothing beats ensuring your car is properly maintained.

It goes without saying that years ago cars were designed much simpler than they are now. The days are mostly gone where you could tinker about under the bonnet and replace the oil or old spark plugs.

Now, many modern cars’ mechanics are computer controlled and diagnostics and repairs can only be carried out by a trained mechanic using the latest tools and equipment.

So, we want you to know that you can place your faith in Trust My Garage. We have around 2,000 garages signed up to our scheme across the country, all of which are committed to providing the highest quality services and repairs.

And not only will we be able to give your car the thorough inspection it deserves to keep you safe when travelling, all of our garages also adhere to our Customer Charter.

We will only charge you for work completed and parts supplied and fitted – we don’t include any hidden costs, or hike up the prices.

And we use up-to-date technical information, techniques and tooling; always following your vehicle’s service schedule.

This means that you will go home satisfied that we have treated you and your vehicle with respect.

So, if you feel that your car could do with having a good looking over – if only to give you peace of mind when travelling – then just type your postcode into our garage finder to locate your nearest member.