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Should I Still Drive?

A Safety-Guide for Seniors

As we age, we will all experience some challenges. For each of us, the time may come when we need to consider letting someone else take over the responsibility of driving for us.

Here are some things to consider when making this difficult decision for yourself, or when helping a loved one make it.

• Are you finding that you are confused or lost more often, even in what should be familiar territory?

• Do you have difficulty seeing with your peripheral vision?

• Are you slow to respond in a tight traffic situation?

• Is it difficult for you to hear your turn signals?

• Do you find it difficult to see at night?

• Do you sometimes zone out or even forget you are driving?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider these facts: Traveling forty-five miles per hour, you cover sixty-six feet in one second. The average person takes one-and-a-half seconds to begin to brake. This reaction time can increase with age. It takes three seconds to be in a crash, beginning to end. It takes the average car sixty-four feet to come to a stop at twenty miles per hour. Will you react in time if a child runs into the street? An airbag deploys in one-quarter of a second at 200 miles per hour with enough force to keep a large person pinned in the car seat. Are you sitting in the correct position to avoid personal injury if the air bag deploys?

Considering these things, here are some safety tips to make you a better driver as you age.

1. Position your seat so that your right foot can move from the brake pedal to the gas pedal without lifting your foot off the floor. This cuts down on valuable reaction time that might save you or someone else from serious injury.

2. Train yourself to scan the road a quarter mile (or twenty seconds) ahead. Frequent scanning allows you to determine possible hazards in advance and react in time.

3. Keep your hands at nine and three o’clock positions (or eight and four) on the steering wheel. By doing this, you have good control over the steering wheel, and the crossover of your arms will prevent oversteer. These positions also help with arm fatigue.

4. Keep your steering wheel pointed at your chest and positioned at least ten to twelve inches from your body. This will protect your face and neck if the airbag deploys.

5. Adjust your side-view mirrors so you are looking at the lane beside you with the horizon in the mirror, rather than at your own vehicle.

6. Glance over your shoulder quickly in these five driving situations: changing lanes, turning, swerving to miss an object, merging, and entering traffic from a curb.

7. Always use your turn signals. It is not only the law in Virginia, but it helps communicate your intentions. Be sure to use the correct signal, and cancel after your maneuver.

8. Always buckle up. This is your greatest safety feature. Additionally, it lets you stay in control of the car in case of a collision.

9. At intersections, look left, straight, right, and left again. Left is where the traffic is coming from, so look again before proceeding into the intersection.

10. Try to stick to familiar roads, drive only during daylight hours, and be on the roadways in light traffic as much as possible.

Margaret Seay is a mother and grandmother. She has worked with teens and adults in the classroom and behind the wheel at Always First Driving Academy, LLC, at their Parham and Staples Mill location, as a certified and licensed driving instructor since 2008.
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