As promised last week, I am going to provide some more information to help you assess your current driving skills and some suggestions to help you ensure your safety, the safety of your passengers, and the safety of those with whom you are sharing the road. Here are some things to think about when evaluating your driving expertise:
- Do you find it hard to pull out in heavy traffic?
- Do you find it hard to judge the distance and speed of other cars?
- Do you find things happen too quickly for you to make good driving decisions?
Difficulty judging distance and slower reaction times can make it harder to deal with fast moving traffic. Here are some suggestions to alleviate some of those judgment and reaction time issues.
- Keep a buffer of space around your car
- Stay 3 seconds of travelling time behind the car in front of you
- Slow down for bad weather or road conditions
- Brake smoothly and gradually
- Make sure that your front tires are pointed straight ahead while waiting to make a left turn
- Make 3 right turns rather than making a left
- Pre-plan your trip
- Check your rear view mirror when braking
- Stay mentally active. Exercise your brain with puzzles or crosswords
- Avoid driving in bad weather
- Avoid heavy traffic and highway driving
- Drive at the speed limit; driving too slow is unsafe and can cause frustration in other drivers
- Switch to a road with a lower speed limit
- Drive in the right lane wherever possible
- Signal your intentions well in advance
- Check your mirrors often – use both side mirrors and the rearview to scan everything around and behind you
Here are some other elements of driving that can indicate you may not be functioning on the road as well as you could be. SENIOR DRIVER GROUP EDUCATION SESSION
- Do you get lost while driving?
- Do you sometimes change lanes or merge without looking?
- Do you tend to drive much faster or slower than other traffic?
- Are you distracted or does your attention wander while driving?
Short lapses in attention can lead to missing important information like lights, stop signs and traffic conditions. The art of driving skillfully requires your undivided attention and concentration. Here are some suggestions to ensure you are focused and alert at all times.
- Do not let passengers, the radio or cell phone distract you
- Plan your driving for mid-morning when you are most rested, traffic is lighter and glare from the sun is less
- Plan your errands and activities so that you need to make fewer trips
- Avoid busy streets
- Take frequent breaks, stop for stretching and walking exercise
- Let someone else drive when you are tired or stop for a rest and stretch your legs
- Avoid driving on less familiar roads
- When backing up ensure that you are in the correct gear and that your foot is on the correct pedal
- Do not drive when upset
- Do not drive in situations that make you nervous
- Always check your mirror and look over your shoulder before changing lanes or merging
Being able to drive and be independent is neither a right nor an entitlement. Driving is something we learned and a skill we developed over the years. Older adults also have to be very cognizant of maintaining the skill level required to be a good driver and a conscientious driver.