As you get older, changes to your body and mind can affect your driving. But with a few simple steps, you can stay safe on the road.
Make your car work for you
Simple changes to your car can help you stay safe on the road and make driving more comfortable. Here are some tips to help you make sure your car is in the right position:
- Seat: Adjust your seat so you have about 10 inches between your chest and your steering wheel and can easily reach the gas and brake pedals.
- Head Restraint: Position the middle of the head restraint with your ears and make sure the back of your head is less than 2.5 inches away to protect against whiplash and neck injuries in a crash.
- Steering Wheel: Adjust your steering wheel and/or seat so you can see at least three inches above the steering wheel.
- Seat Belt: Make sure your seat belt rests with the lap belt across your hip bones or upper thighs and the shoulder belt across the center of your left shoulder and chest.
- Mirrors: Adjust your side and rearview mirrors to limit blind spots when backing up or changing lanes.
Every driver and every car are different. It is best to talk to a professional who can help make your car work for you:
- Meet with a CarFit technician to adjust your car to your needs.
- Find an Occupational Therapist to learn about tools to improve your comfort.
AARP video, Vehicle Safety & Comfort: Seat Belts
AARP video, Vehicle Safety & Comfort: Airbag Information
AARP video, Vehicle Safety & Comfort: Head Restraints
Read here to learn more:
AARP article, Getting the Right Fit With Your Vehicle
NHTSA article, Blindzone Glare Elimination Mirror Method
Visit the CarFit website to learn more and find a CarFit Specialist near you.
Choose a safe car
It doesn’t matter if you are buying new or used – safety is key. Choosing the safest car you have access to can keep you safe in case of a crash.
Do your homework about safety features. Many safety features became standard in 2013. If you are looking at a car that is older than 2013, look to see if it has: side airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. You can also look for helpful features like push button start, back-up camera, and blind spot assist.
Look for the safety features above and check crash test ratings through IIHS or NHTSA.
AAA Advanced Driver Assistance Technology for Older Driver Safety
AAA Smart Features for Older Drivers
Visit My Car Does What to learn more about newer technology in cars.
Visit AARP Smart DriverTEK to find an online or in-person car technology workshop.
Set safe limits
As you age, changes to your body and mind can affect your ability to stay safe on the road. You might notice that you feel less comfortable driving at night, in bad weather, or in busy areas. Setting driving limits can help you keep driving safely.
The driving limits you set are unique to your comfort and concerns, but might include:
- Drive during daylight and in good weather.
- Drive when your symptoms are milder.
- Reduce distractions (radio, passengers, cell phone).
- Plan your route before you leave.
- Avoid busy and unfamiliar areas.
- Drive when your mind and body are well rested.
Watch for Changes
Prepare before you leave
Running out of gas, taking a wrong turn, or heavy traffic can make it harder to stay safe on the road. You can avoid many of these situations by preparing before you drive.
Check Your Car
- Take your car to a mechanic at least once a year.
- Get gas when you still have a quarter tank left and are in a familiar area.
- Keep your windows, windshield, and lights clean.
- Change your windshield wiper blades every 6-12 months.
- Check your tires.
Get Ready for Your Trip
Plan for Emergencies
- Keep an emergency kit in your car (jumper cables, basic tools, flashlight, first aid kit, blanket, and snacks).
- Always bring your cell phone and charger.
- Think about getting roadside assistance through AAA, AARP, or your insurance.
NHTSA video, TireWise
National Safety Council article, What Should You Keep in the Car?
Operation Lifesaver, Driving Safely Near Railroad Tracks
Refresh your skills
Driving is a skill that you can practice and learn for life. You can take an online or in-person course to learn more about staying safe on the road.
While most courses aren't covered by insurance, some insurance companies might lower your rates after taking a course. Contact your insurance provider to learn more.
- AARP Driver Safety Program, 4-hour in-person course
- I Drive Safely and AARP North Carolina Smart Driver Course, 4-hour online course
- AAA North Carolina Road Wise Driver, online course