Updated: May 4
The fitness of your mind and body must work together in order to drive safely. Follow these tips from AARP to keep yourself sharp, healthy, and ready for the road.
Your eyesight is key to all aspects of driving, but you may not realize how complex vision actually is. Good vision, both near and far, is needed to identify road hazards, road signs, and view your dashboard.
Visual acuity is how clearly or accurately you can see. There are many conditions that affect visual acuity, especially as we age. Here are a few conditions to keep watch for:
Colorblindness and cataracts may cause problems when identifying traffic signals or brake lights of other cars while driving.
Decreased contrast sensitivity is the visual ability to see objects that are not outlined clearly or do not stand out from their background. Examples are difficulty seeing pedestrians and road signs, especially in poorly lit roads or in fog.
Decreased useful field of view refers to the amount of visual information that can be processed in a brief glance using both eyes. The ability to process information slows with age, particularly for situations in which the environment is very complex, e.g., a busy roadway.
Decreased depth perception and peripheral vision is the ability to judge the distance of objects in relation to ourselves and the ability to see outside our immediate field of view. Both tend to decrease with age and are essential in everyday driving situations, such as judging the distance and speed of approaching cars when merging or seeing a car approaching you from either side.
With that in mind, it is incredibly important to get regular eye exams to maintain good eye health.
Over time, we can lose the ability to quickly assess and react appropriately to the demands of driving. From something as simple as fatigue to minor memory loss to something as complex as Dementia, our brain health, and overall mental well-being are crucial to the task of driving.
Your ability to carry out the following processes should be gauged in assessing your driving fitness:
Attention and reaction time
Concentration (paying attention to changes in your driving environment)
Ability to process information quickly and accurately
Problem-solving skills (how to get help if you have a flat tire)
Memory (how to get to the doctor’s office)
Stimulate your brain by trying new activities. Try testing your memory and problem-solving skills; it can be something as simple as taking a new route to a familiar location. A study by the National Institute of Health recently found that people who had cognitive training for memory, reasoning or speed of processing had 50 percent fewer car accidents than those in the control group.
Driving is a demanding activity that requires your full attention to many things at the same time. Eliminate distractions inside the vehicle and minimize activities that require you to take your eyes off the road or take both hands off the wheel, especially in heavy traffic. Some suggestions:
Put your cell phone on silent and tuck it away so you are not tempted to answer a text or phone call while driving.
Pre-set your radio with your favorite radio stations. That way you won’t have to look away from the road to change the station.
Don’t eat, drink, or smoke while driving.
These important tips will keep you sharp and ready to drive. Driving is demanding, so take measures to ensure good vision, brain health, and reduce distractions while on the road.
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