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Cool weather driving tips for boomers

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Updated: 10/19/2012 12:50 pm

(BPT) - Whether you're heading south for the winter or visiting family in far-off locales for the holidays, cool weather driving can be a fun, fulfilling experience. But while drivers of all ages can enjoy the pleasures of a long trip, changes in roads, road rules and driving conditions can make it more important for older drivers to make extra preparations to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

AARP Driver Safety offers some advice for drivers age 50 and older who are planning to be on the road this fall and winter:

Before you go

Some basic preparations can help ensure you and your vehicle are both in top form for your road trip. First, take care of yourself by making sure you're well rested, up-to-date on all medications, and have addressed any health concerns that could affect your driving ability.

It's also a good idea to brush up on your driving skills. AARP's Driver Safety course is specifically designed to help people 50 and older refresh their driving skills and adapt to age-related changes, such as those to vision, hearing and reaction time. You can find an in-person course near you by searching at www.aarp.org/findacourse or you can sign up for an online course. Taking a course may even score you a discount on your auto insurance rates, according to the website DMV.org.

Next, take a look at your vehicle. Perform routine maintenance like an oil change (if your car is due for one) and check all fluid levels. Check tire inflation and tread wear, make sure windshield wipers are in good condition, and clean all windows and headlights.

Finally, make sure you pack items that can make your long drive easier and safer. Your travel equipment should include basic emergency tools like jumper cables, a jack and spare tire, and emergency flares. Also, be sure your trunk has a first-aid kit and your up-to-date GPS device is front and center - but not obstructing your vision - inside the car.

While on the road

Once you're on the road, take steps to ensure you stay rested and focused. Take frequent and regular rest stops that allow you enough time for a bathroom break and to walk around a bit. Walking and gentle stretching can help ease stiff joints and muscles that may tighten up from inactivity. Planning your trip to take in some sights along the way is a great way to break up the journey. Check out online resources like travel websites and mapping apps for suggestions of tourist attractions and roadside diners where you can stop along the way.

Avoid reviewing maps or your GPS directions while you're driving, as those things can become distracting and distracted driving is dangerous driving. Instead, designate a navigator who will monitor directions and read them aloud to you.

Minimize nighttime driving as more accidents happen when it's dark. If you must drive at night, use extra caution and remember to park in well-lit areas. Avoid driving during bad weather. Remember, you're on vacation, not on a schedule; you can spare the time to pull over rather than drive in a snow storm.A driver safety course specifically designed for people 50 and older can also help you learn coping techniques if you have age-related mobility or vision issues that affect your ability to drive at night or in bad weather.

While on your trip, be sure someone trusted knows your route and your approximate arrival time, and check in with that person during breaks to let them know your progress.

To learn more about driver safety, visit www.aarp.org/drive or call (888) 227-7669 (AARP-NOW) to learn more about taking the AARP Driver Safety course.

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