Good health and driving

Stay safe on the road by monitoring your health.

Physical activity

People of all ages should make physical activity a part of their day. It does not need to be vigorous, but it has to be regular.

As you get older the need to exercise and stretch becomes increasingly important. Medical evidence shows that if you keep physically fit by exercising regularly, you increase your chances of staying healthy.

Walking is very good for many older people. Exercise can improve health and agility and sharpen reflexes, which in turn can assist safe driving. 

Physiotherapists conduct thorough assessments taking into account any existing medical conditions and injuries you may have. They are able to design an appropriate exercise program according to your health needs. They will also be able to monitor your progress and make changes to your program as necessary. Some physiotherapists conduct specialised fitness classes for older people. You should ask a physiotherapist or a doctor for advice about exercises that are appropriate for you.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol before driving dramatically increases your risk of being involved in a crash.

A car driver with a full licence must have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than .05. For a driver who is ill, tired or taking some medicines, the risk will be higher at any blood alcohol concentration.

More information is available in the drugs and alcohol section.

Sleep

You should not drive if you are sleepy. If you feel tired regularly, or if you are not getting enough sleep, you should speak to your doctor. There are many possible causes of tiredness, including the medicines you take. If you find that you are feeling sleepy after medication, ask your doctor if there is something you can take instead, or if you can take the medicine at a different time.

More information about avoiding drowsiness when driving is available in the fatigue section.

Emotions

Driving a car in traffic can be frustrating at times. Anger, impatience or anxiety can affect your judgement and diminish your driving effectiveness.

How ageing affects the driver

While older drivers do not have as many crashes as some other age groups, they are more at risk of being seriously injured or killed if involved in a crash. This is because they are frailer than younger drivers.

  • An older driver is more likely to have some medical condition that reduces their ability to drive safely. Medicines may also increase crash risk.
  • It takes an older driver longer to respond to a situation than a younger driver.
  • Older drivers are more likely to be involved in collisions at intersections and on multi-lane roads where they fail to select a safe gap in the traffic.
  • Bones become more brittle with ageing, so they are more likely to break in a fall or a crash.

However, older drivers tend to self-regulate, avoiding times or conditions in which they feel uncomfortable. Older drivers tend to drive shorter distances and restrict their driving to times and situations in which they feel safe. They tend to be cautious and responsible, obey the law, and are rarely involved in drink driving or speeding incidents.

Muscle

Older people have less muscle than when they were younger, so:

  • they have less protection if they are involved in a crash and injuries will be worse
  • it becomes more difficult to operate car controls
  • it is more difficult to move the head from side to side, to look left and right
  • they have less cushioning, so it is more difficult to sit for long periods. 

Eyes and ears

Vision and hearing are not as good as they used to be. Older people often suffer more from the effects of glare from sunlight or from headlights as they get older. Hearing changes so they have more difficulty hearing high tones.

Vision Impairment

Vision Australia and Guide Dogs Victoria have developed the following leaflet to inform drivers about how their sight might change with age.

Good eyesight is essential for safe driving. Even a small loss of vision can affect your ability to read road signs or recognise objects from a distance.  More information can be found about your licence and visual impairment 

Joint pain

Joint pain caused by conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism may change the way in which people drive. Sometimes the ways people adapt to painful conditions makes their driving less safe, e.g. failing to look over the shoulder before leaving a parking spot or when changing lanes. 

Your health and driving

Many health problems occur gradually, and can be difficult to notice. It is important to have regular check-ups with your doctor to help keep track of your health and identify any issues which might have an impact on your driving. 

Your health and driving [PDF 517Kb]

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