ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Many senior citizens received their driver’s licenses without formal training at a time before driver-education programs were introduced into the school systems.
To help seniors drive safely, the Hillsboro Senior Center offers 55 Alive/Mature Driving, a driving class through AARP.
“That helps seniors become aware and remember all these little things that they did know at one time but maybe forgot,” said Connie Willis, director of the local Senior Center. “Last year it was offered twice but generally, I offer it once a year.”
The driver-safety program covers vision and hearing changes, effects of medication, reaction-time changes, left turns and other right-of-way situations, new laws and how they affect seniors and hazardous-driving situations.
“Here at the center, it’s younger seniors in their 70s taking it just to brush up on their driving skills,” Willis said.
A helpful list of driving tips for seniors includes the following recommended by the Loyola University Health System:
– Keep up to date on the rules of the road and follow them. Take a defensive-driving course for the mature driver.
– Be a defensive and courteous driver.
– Allow plenty of time to get to your destination. Drivers who are rushed make unsafe decisions while driving. When there is additional heavy traffic, older drivers are more comfortable when they are less rushed.
– Leave plenty of room between you and the car ahead of you. Use the “2-second rule” when judging distance between you and the car ahead of you. Senior drivers may want to increase the time to 3 seconds to allow more reaction time.
When the vehicle in front of you passes a landmark, such as under a bridge, begin counting 1001, 1002, 1003. If you get to the same bridge before you have said 1003, you are going too fast.
– Older drivers should decrease their driving in bad weather, avoid dimly lit roads and limit their driving during peak-traffic time.
The following quiz provided by AARP helps seniors consider if they should discontinue driving:
– Do you sometimes say, “Whew, that was close.”
– At times, do cars seem to appear from nowhere?
– At intersections, do cars sometimes proceed when you felt you had the right-of-way?
– Are gaps in traffic harder to judge?
– Do others honk at you?
– After driving, do you feel physically exhausted?
– Do you think you are slower than you used to be in reacting to dangerous driving situations?
– Have you had an increased number of near-accidents in the past year?
– Do you find it difficult to decide when to join traffic on a busy interstate highway?
– Do intersections bother you because there is so much to watch for in all directions?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it may be time to look into alternative transportation choices. Sources for help in making that decision can be family members and friends, family physicians, senior centers and the Marion County Department for Elderly.