Chet Skwarcan column sig

There are now 45 million licensed drivers over the age of 65. This is an increase of 65% from 2000.

Where are all these people coming from? See the answer in a future column.

Driving helps older adults stay independent and mobile. And because the risk of injury in an automobile crash increases as people age, here are some tips older adults can take to stay safe:

• The most obvious is to wear a seat belt. In the event of a crash, even a minor crash, older drivers are more susceptible to injury.

• Drive when conditions are safest. Avoid rush hour traffic, poor weather conditions and driving at night — mid-morning and mid-afternoon are best.

• Think about your route before you drive. When you get in your car think about this: Were you planning to go somewhere or did you just get home?

• Have your eyes checked at least once a year. Also, use caution when driving from bright sunlight to a wooded area. Your eyes may require a bit more time to adjust to sudden changes in brightness.

• Although traffic engineers attempt to make driving more intuitive, if you are experiencing trouble reading signs or understanding pavement markings, it may be time to let someone else help with the driving.

• Leave a large following distance between your car and the car in front of you. Driving defensively, no matter your age, is one of the best things we can do to avoid crashes.

• Avoid distractions in your car. This includes talking on your phone, eating, drinking coffee, or fiddling with your 8-track player.

• Some medicines increase the risk of a fall or car crash; check with your pharmacist.

• If driving makes you stressed or anxious, this may be a sign. Consider asking a friend to drive, use Uber/Lyft, or a ride share service. All of us, at some point, must stop driving. An unhurried easing into this phase makes an eventual reality much easier and safer.

• Stay active! Being physically active not only improves your quality of life but extends how long you can continue to drive and be independent.

So until autonomous cars are ubiquitous, here’s one last tip: If your brakes don’t work too well, simply get a louder horn.

Chet Skwarcan is president of Traffic Engineering, Inc. in Danville. He is an Indiana traffic engineer with more than 30 years of experience solving traffic problems statewide.