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Ways to Improve Driving

Understand Common Driving Problems

Left turns are one of the most dangerous moves for older drivers. It can be hard to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars.

Other common driving issues for drivers over 50:

  • Driving at night and during bad weather
  • Merging into traffic, i.e., right of way
  • Changing lanes
  • Navigating roundabouts
  • Yielding to traffic
  • Following traffic signals, and
  • Driving while impaired (prescription and over-the-counter medicine)

Avoid distractions

In Oregon, it is illegal to talk or text on a cell phone while driving. Adult drivers must use a hands-free device when using a cell phone. However, research shows that even the use of a hands-free device does not get rid of the distraction of the conversation. If you must use the phone, the best thing to do is pull over when and where it's safe.

Many drivers install a GPS device. This is helpful in making sure you get where you're going. However, it's a distraction if you are focusing more on the GPS than the road. If you must pay attention to the GPS, you should pull over when and where it's safe.

Enroll in Driver Education Training

Driver education and training resources available in Oregon include:

Improve the Fit of Your Vehicle

Carfit is a community-based program developed by the AARP, AAA, and the American Occupational Therapy Association to help older drivers improve the “fit” of their vehicle:

  • For their safety and comfort;
  • To promote conversations among older adults and their families about driving safety; and
  • To link adults with local resources to help them drive safer longer.

The program involves a “checkup” where trained volunteers look at 12 items including the following:

  • Clear view over the steering wheel
  • Enough distance from the front airbag
  • Proper positioning of seat and mirrors
  • Ability to use the foot pedals
  • Proper seatbelt use and fit
The CarFit website has more information about the program and a list of events.

Exercise and Stay Fit

A severe injury in a crash is more likely when we are older because our bodies are more fragile. Staying fit and healthy helps us stay mentally alert, and can reduce arthritis pain, anxiety, and depression.

Resources to help 50+ drivers stay fit and well include:

Sign up for Driver Evaluation and Rehabilitation

About Occupational Therapists

An occupational therapist is a health professional who evaluates and treats conditions that limit independence, including driving. An occupational therapist can help you return to your work, sporting and home activities.

After receiving a doctor’s order, the occupational therapist will asses:

  • Range of motion
  • Strength
  • Sensation
  • Coordination
  • Skin and/or wound condition
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Posture and body mechanics
The Occupational Therapy Association of Oregon and American Society of Occupational Therapists have information on occupational therapy resources.

About Driver Rehabilitation Specialists

A driver rehabilitation specialist assesses someone's driving skills, recommends rehab as needed, and suggests vehicle and/or route changes such as avoiding left turns to help the person drive safely. See The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists Web site to find a driver rehabilitation specialist in your area.