Can Exercise Make You a Safer Driver?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  February 25, 2019
Can Exercise Make You a Safer Driver?
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As Baby Boomers continue to retire in large numbers, the average age of drivers on the road is climbing. Despite what you may have heard, older drivers aren’t responsible for the majority of accidents. That undesirable status belongs to younger drivers. Teens are three times more likely to cause a car accident than seniors.

That doesn’t mean older drivers are completely safe behind the wheel. The difference is that senior drivers are more likely to cause harm to themselves than to others.

There are steps you can take to help an older loved one stay safe when driving. One is encouraging them to exercise.

Exercise, Safety, and the Older Driver                  

Research shows that physical fitness is closely linked to senior driver safety. Specifically, older drivers need exercises that build strength, flexibility, and range of motion.

MIT AgeLab and The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence joined forces to research the relationship between exercise and driving and what older adults could do to stay safe.

Researchers found that helping an older driver improve their ability to turn their head, look over their shoulder, and rotate their upper body increases safety. They developed a series of eight no-impact exercises designed to aid older drivers in increasing their flexibility and range of motion while also helping them improve their overall stamina.

You can download their guide, “Exercise for Mature Drivers”, at no cost.

The AAA Foundation has similar helpful resources. Their “Physical Fitness” page contains activity guidelines to help seniors with specific driving tasks, such as braking, seatbelt safety, parking, entering and exiting the vehicle, and more. It also highlights that exercise can be broken up into ten-minute segments to make it easier to accomplish fitness goals.

Exploring Transportation Options for Seniors

If you’ve concluded that it’s time for a senior in your life to hang up their keys, remember it may be difficult for them. One step you need to take before initiating a conversation about driving is to create a list of transportation options. Seniors need to feel confident that they won’t have to rely solely on friends and family.

A few options to explore are:

  • Senior transportation services: Your local agency on aging can help you determine what senior transportation services are in your area. Many cities and counties have affordable options to make it easier for older adults.
  • Rideshare services: Another option is ridesharing services. Lyft, for example, offers easy-to-use scheduling and affordable pricing.
  • Senior living communities: If your loved one has been considering moving to a senior living community, this might be the time. Communities typically have a transportation team that arranges trips to local destinations and physician appointments.

We know the idea of talking with an older loved one about giving up driving can be daunting. Our article, “Talking to a Parent About Giving Up Driving,” offers tips to help the conversation go more smoothly.

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