Keeping the Elderly Safe When Driving in Inclement Weather
It doesn’t take much for a driver to encounter a serious driving condition—whether posed by another driver, or by weather conditions. As people age, handling those situations can become even more difficult. But knowing what to do in certain conditions can help make all the difference in the world. As a family caregiver, if you have noticed your aging parent’s driving isn’t as sharp as it used to be, or you just want to make extra certain they are safe when behind-the-wheel, the following are some good tips you can share with them:
- Take a cell phone when driving, even if the weather is good. Flat tires, for example, can occur no matter the weather. And weather can change in an instant. So having a way of communicating with the police, a tow company, or a family member, is always a good idea. Make sure the phone is completely charged or that they have a charger in their care.
- Have the car weatherized for the appropriate season. In summer, that means using a different weight oil than in winter months. But having tires and brakes checked, fluids checked and/or topped off, and wipers checked and/or replaced are the basics.
- Avoiding roadways, overpasses and bridges when they are wet (or icy in winter) is advisable. If possible in inclement weather, take a different route, or avoid driving altogether until conditions change.
- Go back to the basics learned when first starting to drive and know how to respond to a vehicle that skids or fishtails. Turn the wheel in the direction you want to go, is what you should advise your parent. But be careful not to over-correct, or they could develop a new problem.
- Have an emergency kit in the car that includes a first-aid kit, as well as a flashlight, booster cables, a blanket or two, and some bottled water and bagged food of fruits, nuts, or vegetables. There may come a time when your parent gets stuck for more than a short while, and if they have medical conditions where they need to eat or keep hydrated, having those things will feel like a godsend, especially if they’re traveling on a highway or in rural areas.
- Turn on headlights and wipers when the car is started. A good rule of thumb is, if the windshield wipers are needed, so are the lights.
- Make sure they allow themselves extra time to get to their destination and extra space around them—both in front and on the sides of their car. When possible, it’s a good idea to drive in the middle lane, as it lessens the chance of going off the road and the middle of roads is usually higher, so standing water, slush, etc., will likely not be there as it would be on the side of roads.