Older Drivers Driving!
Let’s look at some driving statistics. Drivers over the age of sixty have the highest incidence of fatalities. However, ninety percent of crashes are preventable. Thirty percent of fatal crashes occur in people sixty-five and older. Those accidents mostly occur in intersections. I recently experienced my first accident in forty-five years. It was scary and I don’t want to repeat it. Yes, it occurred at an intersection and it should have been prevented. I’m over sixty-five. It was my fault. Thank goodness, there were no injuries. The incident compelled me to reassess my driving skills.
On the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) website, there is an “older driver’s review course” that I found helpful. Check it out. The cost is $19.95 for AARP members. The entire program includes four hours of interactive instruction that you can complete in up to sixty days. As you work through the course, your computer will remember where you left off. Take it at your convenience. The instruction is designed for older learners, and it’s entertaining. Select, “Colorado” from the menu. A few things have changed since you learned how to drive in your dad’s 1955 stick shift on rural roads.
I won’t insult your intelligence by listing all Colorado driving rules. You know the importance of seat belts. Don’t drive and drink. Hey, wait! We didn’t always have those laws! Your best girl used to slide across the front seat to be close to you on dates. No more! Grand-kids must sit in the back seat in specially designed seats.
Do you have the habit of swinging your right arm over the passenger seat when you brake suddenly? This was to restrain and hold in place the kid without a seatbelt in a seat that folds over to allow passengers to get into the back seat. We have already unlearned old habits. Let's learn new habits.
You may have some health issue to take into consideration now. Know your prescription drugs and how they may affect your response time. You may have passed your last eye exam, but don’t assume that you see like an eighteen-year-old. Compensate for a decrease in your depth and peripheral vision. When was your last vision exam? Scan from left to right constantly. Don’t stare blankly straight ahead.
If night driving bothers you, be prudent and admit your weaknesses. If glare from rain, ice, and snow confuse you, postpone the trip. You are not as quick with your feet anymore. Reaction time has slowed, so increase your following distance. Three seconds should pass between when the vehicle in front of you passes a stationary object, and when you pass it.
You fatigue more quickly during long trips. Don’t plan long stretches of driving within a day. Stop for breaks and coffee. The trip you used to take in a day may now require two days. Do I need to remind you that alcohol consumption while driving is deadly? Even more so with older drivers. Select a designated driver.
Turn down the radio as well as your noisy passengers. Drive with your lights on during the day and night. Consider a driver's refresher course for seniors.
Our cars and technologies have changed a great deal. The AARP course can bring you up to date. Remember when an airbag was someone who talked too much?Anti-lock brakes require a firm touch, not pumping. They require practice. You will appreciate skidding straight instead of doing 360s. Adjust your mirrors. Use them and know how to adjust them. Know your “blind spots.”
GPS, smartphones, and the Garmin are great for finding your way. Learn how to use them and practice while you are a passenger. Your grandkids can help you with that. Technology, of course, is not infallible in some high density or remote areas. Keep a paper map in your car. Your grandkids will be impressed you can read one. Always have a charger in your car for your cell phone.
Most accidents involving older drivers occur when making a left turn. Pay attention to the green and red arrows at stoplights. No green arrow? Do not turn left until there is a sufficient break in the traffic. Older drivers are most often stopped for failure to yield the right-of-way. Know who must yield and who can go.
In our lifetimes, we have learned to drive in five lanes of traffic in each direction and intersections stacked four bridges high, turning right to turn left. Wow! All of this can be confusing. If this bothers you, avoid congested roads during rush hours. Practice driving during the slow part of the day with a more experienced driver. Otherwise, fly to Los Angeles and don’t drive. Two sets of eyes are better than one if you are not arguing with the other set of eyes. Consider stopping at a rest area. Pull over, get out, stretch, settle your differences, and do some pushups. The AARP website contains information on rules of the road, sign interpretation, crash reporting, and vehicle maintenance. Check it out.
Finally, hope is in sight. Self-driving cars are not far in the future!
Source: AARP.ORG website. In addition, contact call AARP 1-800-350-7025.