November 4, 2010

NEWS FOR YOU from the Iowa Department of Transportation

By Debra Carney
Driver’s License Supervisor
Driver’s License Services office
Davenport, IA

Are You Physically Fit enough to Drive?

A variety of mental and physical abilities are associated with safe driving. When one is diminished or lost, there may be some limitations which affect driving. However, individuals may learn to compensate and continue to drive safely.

Consider some of the following situations:
• Do you have trouble looking over your shoulder to change lanes or back from a parking space?
• Is it difficult to look left and right to check traffic at intersections?
• Do you have trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal?
• Is it difficult to turn the steering wheel?

To counteract some of the above issues and with a doctor’s approval you can try the following:
• Do some stretching exercises and start a walking program. Also, check health clubs, YMCAs, senior centers, colleges and hospitals for fitness programs geared to older drivers.
• Remember to tell your doctor if you experience swelling, stiffness or pain in your arms, legs or neck.
• Choose an appropriate vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes.
• Be alert to your vehicles blind spots and adjust your mirror to eliminate them. There are after-market mirrors available which allow drivers to see into blind-spot areas. Consult an occupational therapist or driving rehabilitation specialist for the type most suitable for the driver’s limitation.
• Keep distractions to a minimum by limiting passenger conversations and background noises.
• Be careful opening car windows which may impair your hearing aids effectiveness.
• Stay ALERT! Watch for conflicts including, pedestrians, bicyclists, emergency vehicles.
• Sit at least 10” from you’re the steering wheel to reduce airbag injuries.
• ALWAYS wear your seatbelt.

Many people take appropriate steps when they detect a problem with their driving. Avoiding night time driving, and heavily traveled or unfamiliar areas are a few. Self awareness is important as well as observations of family members and health care professionals.

With smart self-management, you may limit the risk to yourself and others while maintaining the independence that comes with driving.