How do we remain safe drivers through the decades?
While research has shown that older drivers are generally just as safe as drivers of younger ages, there is no doubt that some of us have deterioration in certain functions as we age. For some, this may affect our ability to maintain our driving standards and perhaps there have even been a couple of incidents that have shaken our confidence and stopped us from wanting to get behind the wheel at all.
This sudden loss of independence can have a major impact on our ability to get out and about and enjoy life, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Safe driving courses tailored for older aged drivers can make a real difference to maintaining our driving abilities, even if we start to lose some of our physical capacities.
Time to self-assess
The trend by road and traffic authorities around the world in recent times is generally to move away from age-based driving tests and making blanket assumptions about older drivers. Instead the focus is on encouraging older drivers to self-assess, so that they are more aware of any drop off in ability and can take remedial action such as driving courses aimed at their specific needs.
Issues such as increased reaction times, deterioration in vision, reduced perception about speed and distance, limited ability to turn your head and becoming easily fatigued are all impairments that can creep up on us as we age. The first step, therefore, is to make an honest self-assessment of how you may be affected by such things and get some feedback from family or friends about whether they have noticed a drop off in driving ability.
Never too old to learn
If you or those close to you feel that there may be an issue with how your physical condition is affecting your driving then a logical next step is to have an independent assessment by someone who can give an objective opinion and is trained in evaluating the challenges that some older drivers face. Your state motoring association is a good place to seek out such an assessment and driving schools may also be able to help.
These organisations also offer safe driving courses or refresher courses that can help you adapt your driving to compensate for any issues you have. Their assessment will also enable them to make recommendations on potential driving situations that you should avoid, such as driving at night or avoiding peak traffic periods.
A chance to polish your skills
Most of us obtained our licence in our teens or early twenties and in all the decades of driving since that time we have been under no obligation to take any test or assessment or to formally refresh our skills. Once you consider this it simply makes good common sense to brush up on your skills and get an objective opinion in later life, preferably before any major issues present themselves.
While there is certainly no substitute for years of successful driving experience, there could be some bad habits that have gradually become embedded in our driving behaviour.
Things like creeping slightly over the speed limit or forgetting to follow the ‘3 second gap’ rule with the car in front can become real issues if our reaction time, vision and ability to focus are deteriorating with age. These are the kinds of things that a senior’s driving course can pinpoint and address in a non-threatening and supportive environment.
Apart from correcting bad habits, a refresher course can also help you gain some proactive skills, such as scanning techniques and adjusting your road position and speed to make allowance for reduction in your capacities.
Tips for staying on the road
Apart from a formal course, there are other things you can do to help retain your ability to continue driving. Doing things to keep physically fit and mentally alert are essential to support your driving ability. Speak to your health professionals about what physical and mental exercise program you should follow to help keep your strength, flexibility, mobility and alertness.
Considering your car choice can also be a major factor. The technology available in modern cars can provide an extra margin of safety and help supplement your driving performance, through features such as automatic emergency braking, reversing cameras, fatigue detection and adaptive cruise control. Perhaps it is time to update that favourite older car with something a bit more modern to help you stay on the road longer.
Written by Tom Raeside. Republished with permission of Wyza.com.au.