Debbie Kulick, Something to Think About

For those of us who feel like we are still “spring chickens,” but know that in reality the times around the sun are increasing faster than we would like, there is the reality that some things are more of a challenge than in those truly “spring chicken” times. One of those things is the effect that age has on our driving ability.

You may find that driving at night, on the highway or in bad weather has become one of those challenges. I know that those new headlights must have been created by someone who never drives at night. There are other signs that let us know that we either have to brush up on our driving skills or perhaps maybe it is time to evaluate driving altogether.

The National Institute on Aging — yes, there is such a place — has recommendations that might just come in handy. They suggest that there are some indicators that mean our driving skills may need some attention. For example, some older drivers may have problems yielding the right of way, turning, especially left turns; changing lanes; passing; and using expressway ramps.

As an organization focused on older drivers and their safety, the institute suggests some tips:

Have your driving skills checked by a driving rehabilitation specialist, occupational therapist or other trained professional. Take a defensive driving course. Under Pennsylvania law, you may be entitled to at least a 5% discount on your entire automobile insurance policy if you are 55 or older and successfully complete the course approved by PennDOT. Organizations such as AARP, American Automobile Association or your car insurance company can help you find a class nearby.

Our fairly mild winter has been a help when it comes to driving in bad weather. But, not driving in weather such as rain, ice or snow can prevent disaster. Waiting until things clear up is the secret here. Also, avoid areas where driving can be a problem. You should probably choose a route that may avoid congestion, highways or even high-speed roadways. Around here, it might mean avoiding the dark winding roads and using main roads with better lighting. Finding routes that won’t have few left turns can be helpful. It is important to ask your health care professional or doctor if any of your health problems or medications might make it unsafe for you to drive.

Might you have a concern about an older driver? Aside from actually observing someone’s driving skills, there are some signs that there may be issues. Multiple vehicle crashes, “near misses” and/or new dents in the car are a hint. Two or more traffic tickets or warnings within the last two years will increase car insurance premiums.

Perhaps there are comments from friends or neighbors or increased anxiety about driving in general or at specific times of day, such as nights. Perhaps there are complaints from your older driver about other drivers and their lane changes or the way they are driving. Finally, some medications or medical conditions may make being a safe driver difficult. In these cases, a doctor can outline whether driving is still safe or not.

Since we all age differently, there is no one set age that driving becomes something of the past. Some things to consider are: Do other drivers honk at me, do I get lost on roads I know, do people seem to appear out of no where, do I have trouble staying in my lane or do I have trouble moving from the gas to the brake pedal and back? All questions that any of us might ask ourselves.

In areas such as ours, being able to get around is vital. Should the time come when driving is not possible, be aware of other options that may still give the older driver control over how and where they can go. Independence is a vital element and knowing what can take the place of being behind the steering wheel can make any change a bit easier to live with.