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Senior Driver Alert

by Joanne Brickman

Thanks to the media, marketing mavens are quite aware of the impact the aging baby boomer is having on the mature market potential.   Dual-incomes are becoming dual-pensions and single women are better preparing financially for their senior years.
     Women purchase over half of all vehicles sold today.  As boomers age and senior women become more confident in dealing with purchases once hailed as "male domain" -- like cars -- the makeup of this statistic will change as it continues to grow.
     Experts say that one-third of all drivers will be over 55 as we move into the next century.  These folks have acquired a wealth of motoring experience which should help them travel safely on our busy roads.  However, the act of driving is oftentimes offset by the effects of aging.  Sight, hearing and judgment of speed and distance are not quite as sharp as they once were. Because these senses often deteriorate very gradually, we may not be immediately aware of the full extent of the change.
      Some older drivers are aware of  their deficits and compensate for them by driving slowly and conservatively, and by taking fewer risks. Unfortunately, many ignore the age-related changes which can make unexpected emergencies particularly difficult for older drivers. Older drivers have been shown to be slower in their ability to plan and execute driving maneuvers due to cognitive processes and motor reflexes slowing, and, therefore, requiring more information to make decisions compared to the younger drivers
     Conversely, statistics show that older drivers are less likely to have an accident than young and inexperienced drivers. Unfortunately, this is true mostly because seniors tend to make fewer and shorter journeys than others and usually travel in daylight and on familiar local roads. 
     Just because the body is aging, interest in going out at night or motoring to new experiences is not necessarily dwindling.  Perhaps it's time to refresh your driving skills and to re-read the driver's manual.  Research has shown widespread ignorance of the rules of the road even among experienced drivers. It's a good idea to refresh your knowledge from time to time and to keep up with changes in the law. 
     The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) offers an excellent program to help renew your skills.  Called  "AARP 55 Alive -- Mature Driving Program," it's a quick and inexpensive way to safer driving for older Americans.  An added incentive is that graduates of the course may be eligible to receive a discount on their auto insurance premiums. 
     The AARP 55 Alive course covers subjects like the effects of medication, how reaction time changes as we age, hazardous driving situations and new laws and how they affect the older driver.  Read all about it.  Surf over to AARP's 55 Alive course once you finish this article.  In the meantime, heed these basic tips, many times forgotten by experienced and beginning drivers alike:
  • Before setting out, make sure all windows are clean and all mirrors are adjusted. Side mirrors are excellent safety features, but remember it's still necessary to look over your shoulder to check the blind spots. 
  • Speed is a major cause of accidents. Always drive so that you are able to stop the car before something else stops you.
  •  Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. In good conditions, leave a two second gap. In bad conditions leave double the distance. 
  • At junctions, don't be pressured into moving before you feel it's safe.  Give yourself time to take in the whole scene.  As well as other vehicles, watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Give turn signals in time for others to see and react. Don't forget to cancel the indicator afterwards. Remember, not everyone uses their turn signals.  Watch for these offenders.
  • On four-lane roadways, don't weave from lane to lane, straddle two lanes or try to change lanes at the last minute.  Keep to the right-hand lane unless passing.  And remember to signal your intention when changing lanes and especially when passing another vehicle on a two-lane road. 
  • Look ahead and anticipate, especially in urban areas where things can change quickly.  Research shows that older drivers tend to have problems when turning left, entering a major road from a minor one, making U turns and reversing, so take extra care with these maneuvers. 
  •  See and be seen! If your vehicle does not have daytime running lights, use your low-beam headlights when traveling.  This advice is even more important in foggy conditions.  Be aware of your high beams.  Never dazzle oncoming traffic with them. 
  •  Above all, expect the unexpected. Never rely on other road users to do the right thing. Be prepared to make allowances for the mistakes of others. 
      Be realistic about the effects of aging on your driving skills so you can relax and enjoy the fun and freedom of motoring through your senior years.

 

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