Driving Resolutions For The Older Adult You May Want To Implement 

Sure, it’s true that you can make resolutions to make your life better at any time you like.

But the start of the year traditionally has been a time that many of us like to wipe the slate clean on any goals that didn’t quite come together and then go ahead and set new ones for the year ahead.

It’s true that official New Year goals do have a pretty high failure rate, often because people tend to bite off more than they can chew even with their good intentions. For instance, they may pledge to exercise an hour every day, and when that proves to be too difficult, especially in the middle of winter, when it’s hard to get out and get motivated, they may just scrap the whole thing.

Self-help experts suggest that thinking a little smaller and more realistic can help you achieve your resolution. For instance, it’s more reasonable to start with an exercise program that isn’t as intense at first, maybe 30 minutes a few days a week. Once you’ve got this part nailed down, you can set another goal to increase your time and your days.

It also helps to share resolutions with others, who can help you with your efforts and vice versa.

This approach can also work to some degree with other types of self-improvement efforts, especially if you make it a group effort.

Driving better and safer, for instance, is something that everyone can benefit from, whether it’s a concentrated effort to be more aware of everything behind the wheel or focus on building certain skills.

New drivers may simply need more practice. They may have mastered the basic requirements to get their license, but they may benefit from more time behind the wheel, especially in advanced situations like adverse weather or longer outings.

It doesn’t hurt to have experienced drivers along to give them pointers – as much as you might enjoy driving on road trips, it might be useful to yield the wheel to someone new working on building up their endurance.

Drivers who have been at it for awhile may also enjoy new experiences, new scenery, and new locations. Take a trip into the mountains where there are curvy roads. Or head to the nearest coast, or at least a large body of water.

Or you can make it a goal to build your skills with other types of vehicles or try more challenging tasks like pulling a trailer.

If you make a resolution like “I want to improve my driving by seeing more of the countryside,” there will be pretty good odds that you’ll be able to make this one.

Seniors, though, can benefit from all sorts of driving goals, including those with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease where they can still stay safe on the road.

Older adults, those 65 and older, are one of the highest risk age groups for accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are a lot of reasons for this. First, there are a lot of them on the road since it’s a growing demographic.

Seniors also may be experiencing changes in their vision, weaker coordination, and slower reaction times, which can be challenging or even dangerous when they get behind the wheel. They may be slower at multi-tasking, which is required, especially in busy roadways. They may even have weaker strength which can make it harder to turn the wheel, especially in a heavier vehicle.

Some medications or health conditions may further lower these abilities as well.

Merck, a health provider, said that senior drivers actually have fewer crashes annually than younger drivers since they generally drive shorter distances, but they do have more crashes per miles driven.

Rates of traffic violations, accidents, and fatal crashes also grow higher with each decade – ages 60-70, then 70-80, then 80 and higher.  

One of the most common violations for these groups is right-of-way, where a driver may pull into traffic without seeing another car heading toward them.

When coming up with appropriate resolutions, especially for seniors, consider the following suggestions:

  • Only drive in the safest conditions, such as daylight and good weather.
  • Avoid the freeway, especially during heavy traffic. It may make a trip a little slower and require more awareness of traffic lights and stop-and-go traffic, but side roads usually have lower speed limits, so reaction times can be faster and collisions will be less damaging.
  • Look for traffic courses especially for seniors, including some through AARP. These can be done in person or online, and cover common challenges and conditions that seniors face. Often, completing a course may lead to a reduction in insurance costs, another incentive for a driving refresher.
  • Evaluate your performance regularly, and agree to stop driving when you and passengers no longer feel safe, regardless of what a driver’s license says. You can even make this into a positive – consider ‘having people drive you around’ to be a privilege you’ve worked hard to earn all your life, rather than a loss.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association encourages seniors to keep driving as long as they keep safety in mind, but equally encourages them to hang up their keys when they don’t.

The NHTSA is an organizer of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week each December, an occasion which encourages seniors and their families to be aware of their changing mental and physical conditions.

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