The Elderly Driver Should Take Simple Safety Precautions
Driving is Risky for the Elderly Driver
Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, has this to say about driving: “The simple fact is, getting behind the wheel of a car is the riskiest thing most people do every day” and as an elderly driver there are several simple safety precautions you can take to mitigate that risk and to optimize your safe handling of a car.
The Elderly Driver’s Physical Limitations
Let’s begin with your eyes. How are they? If you are less than 60 years of age, you should have your eyes checked at least bi-annually. But, if you are an elderly driver of at least 60 years of age, you ought to be scheduling an eye exam every single year. Talking about your vision, do you find that driving at night is getting harder? Is visibility at night uneasily low? How about the glare of headlights from on-coming traffic? Is it uncomfortable, are your eyes irritated and burning? Then, avoid, as much as possible, driving at night! Plan your outings and business trips so that all travel can be completed during daylight hours. Incidentally, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Nationwide, 49% of fatal crashes happen at night, with a fatality rate per mile of travel about three times as high as daytime hours.” So, if driving at night is getting harder, take this simple safety precaution, i.e., stay off the roads at night. What about blind spots while you are driving? Can you easily turn your neck and head so that you can check for blind spots as well as for traffic by the side of your car? If you can not, you may want to consider visiting a physician to check for ways to improve neck rotation or get treatment from a chiropractor, a massage therapist or, perhaps, through an exercise program at your senior center. Are you taking medications? Do you know what are the published side effects of your medications that might interfere with your driving capability? Are you sure that now as an elderly driver, the medications that you have been taking, even for years, will not adversely affect your driving performance? Schedule a visit to review your meds with your physician. Make sure that what you are taking can not cause a sudden loss of control over your vehicle or will gradually cause a deterioration of your driving capability. Be sure that every time your physician prescribes a new medication that you ask the question, “How will this affect my driving?” Simple Precautions and Strategies for The Elderly Driver Here are two practical suggestions for the elderly driver, especially for those who are finding their reaction time and their ability to take in the whole traffic picture while driving is becoming more of a challenge.
Avoid driving during rush hour. Even professional, younger drivers can find all the increased traffic activity and flow, during rush, a real challenge. So, as an elderly driver, it is not surprising that you do too. If you are feeling that your reaction time is getting slower and your ability to anticipate sudden changes in the stop and go of the rush hour traffic, then simply avoid it! Plan your trips so that you don’t have to put up with the aggravation. There is no shame; this is a practical strategy. Also, avoid risky left turns by making a series of right turns instead. Often, you may find yourself at a busy intersection trying to make a left. If you are in a designated left turning lane waiting for a flashing green arrow, it might not be so bad. However, if you are in designated left turning lane, after the advance light has stopped flashing, what happens then? The on coming traffic is zooming past you, fast and furiously and the cars opposite you, in their left turning lane, are crowding their lane so as to block your visibility. You are anticipating that the light will soon turn red and you are stuck out in the middle of the intersection. You have make your turn but the on-coming cars are whizzing by you and you don’t dare make the turn. Well then, maybe it is time to rethink your route and factor in some extra right turns. Go past that busy intersection and make a right at the next viable cross street and a couple of more rights until you are positioned on the street on which you had planned to make a left, in the first place. Is this surrender? Is this weakness? NO! I’ll tell you what is weakness; weakness is to succumb to pride and bull-headedness to the extent that you cause an accident and cause harm to others and to yourself. As an elderly driver, avoiding a left turn that you can not handle or avoiding the rush hour with all its attendant challenges, is a sign of wisdom. One other precaution that you can take to insure your safety is to remember to “buckle up.” I can remember when cars did not have seat belts. I also remember that after car manufacturers had seat belts as a standard feature, they were not legally required. I also, remember comments from the naysayers that knew of cases where people were involved in accidents that could not get out of the car because their seat belts jammed. They speculated that a car on fire was a death trap to anyone cinched up in a jammed seat belt.
Eventually, however, the facts overcame the wild speculations as stats came in from jurisdiction after jurisdiction showing the highway fatality and injury rates were dropping dramatically with the use of seat belts. I’m pretty sure that most of you elderly drivers can remember the same. So, always wear a safety belt, even when you’re just making a quick run to the store. The Entitled Elderly Driver Finally, I know that after driving for such a long time, in my case 42 years, one feels a sense of entitlement. After all, most of you have made it this far without a major accident or mishap. Most of you have not gotten a ticket for a moving violation or lost points on your license. You are good drivers! But, how does that saying go (the one that you might use when addressing a younger person, for instance)? “I have forgotten more than you will ever know.” Well, we all should take note of the phrase, “I have forgotten more…” Yes, the elderly driver has learned much over the many years of motoring, but the elderly driver, also, has forgotten much. So, take a driver’s safety course to refresh and to refine your skills. Incidentally, if you do take such a course, like those offered by AARP and AAA, you may possibly lower your insurance rates. Call your car insurance agent and find out. But, even if your insurer doesn’t lower your rates, you may end up lowering your driving anxiety, reducing risk factors, and making for a safer and more secure driving experience in your senior years. Technorati: 6TFGHCS9DH3M