Ever since you turned sixty, you’ve been a lot more cautious when you get behind the wheel. But while you may take the back roads and avoid highways, there’s no way to avoid pulling into a parking lot to pick up your groceries and prescriptions. It may seem like a low-risk situation, but the truth is that many serious—and even fatal—car accidents occur as a result of elderly drivers hitting or backing over pedestrians in parking lots.
How Older Drivers Can Avoid a Parking Lot Accident
Injuries from a parking lot accident can have devastating effects on both the victim and the elderly driver. However, older drivers can reduce their chances of being involved in a parking lot crash by doing the following:
- Get a checkup. There are many different medical conditions that can impair driving function, including vision problems, dulled reflexes, dementia, and sudden heart attacks. Always keep your regular doctor’s appointments, and make sure to ask questions about any pains or numbness in your feet and hands (such as neuropathy) that could affect your driving ability. Don’t be afraid to test your cognitive functioning for early signs of memory loss or Alzheimer’s, and do not drive if you are taking any medications that impair your judgment or reflexes.
- Pre-flight checks. Many older adults do not adjust their seats and mirrors before setting off, leaving the blind spots dangerously unguarded. Make sure you are wearing shoes that will not impede your ability to switch between pedals quickly, and that the floor mat is securely in place. Don’t hang anything from your rearview mirror and keep the dashboard and rear shelf clear of clutter to make sure you have a clear view out the windows.
- Shop on a weekday. Mondays and Tuesdays are a lot less busy for most retailers than other days of the week. By shopping and running errands on lower-volume days, there will not only be less parking lot congestion, but also fewer people out and about (making for shorter lines and faster travel).
- Pull through. Elderly drivers are more likely to be involved in back-over accidents because they are less able to fully turn their heads. If you have trouble looking behind you or to either side of your vehicle, always find a parking space you can pull all the way through (allowing you to leave by driving forward). If you must park in a space that requires backing up, tap your horn before putting the car in reverse.
- Keep your eyes open! Older drivers are just as likely to be distracted behind the wheel. Whether it is passenger conversations, tuning the radio dial, or calming a pet in the car, you should eliminate as many distractions as possible. Parking lots are filled with their own distractions, including runaway shopping carts or a child running in front of cars, so keep your eyes peeled for any sudden movements.
Remember: a little prevention is better than a cure when it comes to car accident injuries. Share this article on Facebook or by email to help a friend or someone you love stay safe as they get older.