Ok, not every older driver is but… you’d be surprised to learn that drivers over the age of 65 are among the best insurance risks of all licensed drivers. I know, any one of us can recall seeing an elder driver narrowly avoid an accident or be oblivious to the one that they almost caused due to there apparent absent mindedness. I wonder though whether we have a broad enough sample size of all aged drivers to fairly access our critique against all aged drivers. Here is what I mean.
According to our American cousins, the AAA, “Seniors are safe drivers compared to other age groups, since they often reduce risk of injury by wearing safety belts, observing speed limits, and not drinking and driving.” Elders also have fewer accidents, possibly because they tend to drive short distances. However, older drivers are less likely to survive accidents. That is the real paradigm shift for us to appreciate. Sadly, while elders don’t actually cause more accidents than younger drivers, when they are involved in more serious collisions, they often prove fatal to them.
Over the years I have had many elders approach me, apparently having read this very column so here is a message made straight to them (though the advice I discovered and now extend can help any one of us!)
To boost our safety while driving (especially if you’re an older driver), I have happened upon some recommended best practices for us to become smarter drivers. Essentially, the trick is to know your limitations—and how to work around them. Be sure to:
Keep “sight” of your vision. Get regular eye exams. If glare is a problem, drive only during the day. Look over your shoulder when changing lanes.
Modify your driving habits. Reaction time decreases with age. To compensate, leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Avoid left turns when possible. Plan your route before travelling and eliminate distractions. If highways make you anxious, use side roads, or avoid driving during hours when the traffic is heavy.
Focus on fitness. Driving requires a measure of strength, flexibility, and coordination, so it helps to be in decent shape. Walk regularly or work your muscles with activities such as gardening, golf, or tennis. Try to stay mentally active in some way in order to keep your problem-solving skills sharp.
Know your medications. Some medications cause drowsiness. If the label says, “Do not use while operating heavy machinery,” don’t drive! Inform your doctor of over-the-counter medications you take—and even alcohol—as they can interact with prescribed medications. While a bit awkward to share, it can really matter.
I know I quoted something from the AAA here but in Canada we are truly blessed with some very good driving schools, while ‘Young Drivers of Canada’ is one of them, there are also many private companies who can offer professional assessments or rechecks in advance of age specific driving tests. If you are concerned about a loved one’s driving skills, why not pay for a professional assessment as part of a caring gift. In time, we’ll start hearing more about something the AAA already does in the USA, they offer a driving class specific for seniors called; AAA’s Roadwise Driver.
Let’s face it, every one of us has had a very close call we can likely remember, I was reminded of one I had just the other day by my wife, helping me to temper my comments made about elder driving skills for this column. Her gasp from the passenger seat while I tried to make a left hand turn and hadn’t seen one of the two cars approaching us saved our lives, while it did take a couple of years off of each of our own longevity; community driving at its finest!