A 90 year-old lady was giving me a ride to pick up a car on a busy Florida street. She stopped at the entrance to a four-lane highway, looked left at two vehicles about a half mile away, coming at us at the posted speed of 40 mph. She kept looking. As they got closer, she decided to pull out. There were breaks activated and horns blowing.
It was clear that her reaction time was inadequate for driving in traffic. She had looked at the two approaching vehicles but had been slow in processing the information and making the decision to enter in a timely manner. Second, she had arthritis in her legs and could not make the moves quickly.
Another problem that seems to be occurring to senior citizens around the world is their rate of driving into convenience stores and other buildings. It begins when the driver steps on the car’s accelerator instead of the brake. The car speeds forward and the driver doesn’t realize that it’s still the accelerator he or she’s stepping on. So, thinking it’s the brake, the driver keeps the pedal to the floor. The result is a new opening for the building.
I hope to be able to turn in my drivers’ license when I can’t physically or mentally drive a vehicle safely. And I hope that I will voluntarily give up the keys to my car. Unfortunately many people can’t accept the end of their independence and it may be up to others, close relatives or friends, to show them how dangerous continued driving would be and give them some alternatives to the automobile.
HelpGuide.org has some tips on physical ailments that may be keeping you from driving carefully. In other words, with these problems, you shouldn’t be operating a car:
- Pain or stiffness in your neck can make it harder to look over your shoulder to change lanes or look left and right at intersections to check for other traffic or pedestrians.
- Leg pain can make it difficult to move your foot from the gas to the brake pedal
- Diminished arm strength can make it hard to turn the steering wheel quickly and effectively.
Health problems may cause you to drive in an unsafe manner. Medicines can also cause drowsiness or confusion, a problem that makes it even worse for drivers with health problems. If you have trouble with your vision that can’t be fixed, then information signs, traffic lights and direction signs can cause you to make a fatal error. And if you can’t hear well, that ambulance might be headed for the same intersection that you are, with both vehicles arriving at the same time. Read more.
Driving defensively is more important than ever because there are more people on the road doing everything but driving carefully. Many drivers today, from cheerleaders to a NASA engineer, are driving while using two hands to text, looking down and not at the highway. Many people have been killed by texting. And they are the ones who don’t move when the light turns green because they are talking on the phone. So don’t do anything but drive and pay attention when you’re at the wheel.
More on driving safely for seniors:
- Drive during daylight hours, and plan your route before you leave the house. Don’t drive during bad weather…
- Don’t follow too closely. For every 10 miles per hour of speed, follow one car length behind the car in front of you. For example, if you are going 40 miles per hour, stay at least 4 car lengths behind the car in front of you.
Now, how should you tell a person he shouldn’t drive anymore?
Be respectful but firm and give examples of the person’s unsafe driving habits. Get others to back you up, including professionals (a doctor). Then help the ex-driver find alternative methods of transportation. Help him transition to the new way of travel.
The link provides tips for “adjusting to life without driving” and a number of alternative transportation options to the automobile. And doing without a car can save you a lot of money.