Being a safe, responisible elderly driver


Many seniors get irritated with headlines such as "Elderly Driver Crashes into Crowd" or "Driver, 84, Causes Fatal Accident." We seldom see "Driver, Age 40, Involved in Fatal Collision." National Highway Traffic Safety statistics show that the safest drivers are in the 64 to 69 year age group. Driving helps seniors stay active and independent, and many older adults maintain good driving skills into their later years.

Many seniors get irritated with headlines such as "Elderly Driver Crashes into Crowd" or "Driver, 84, Causes Fatal Accident." We seldom see "Driver, Age 40, Involved in Fatal Collision." National Highway Traffic Safety statistics show that the safest drivers are in the 64 to 69 year age group. Driving helps seniors stay active and independent, and many older adults maintain good driving skills into their later years.

But the fact is, the normal physical changes of aging, such as vision problems, hearing loss, decreased reaction time, memory loss, arthritis and decreased manual dexterity, can make driving unwise past a certain point. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall risk of being killed or injured in a motor vehicle crash does increase with age.

How can we stay safe on the road, or preserve their independence and mobility with alternate transportation? Here are six steps seniors themselves can take to avoid becoming a traffic statistic or ending up isolated at home.

1) Have your skills assessed. It's not always easy to tell whether a senior is safe behind the wheel. Nonetheless, driver testing remains an important tool. Older adults should periodically assess their driving abilities to honestly judge whether they are safe behind the wheel. Though it may be a difficult conversation, family should talk to their older loved ones about driving safety. Family members have the right — and the responsibility — to be concerned about their loved ones' safety and that of strangers who might be hurt in an accident. They may need to enlist the help of a concerned outsider who can impartially discuss this issue

2) Change your habits. Adjusting driving habits can help senior drivers avoid the most challenging driving situations. If night vision has diminished, they can schedule car trips during the day. Busy highway and rush hour traffic can be avoided with some advance planning. The CDC confirms that many seniors are already self-restricting their driving under those types of conditions.

3) Take a senior driving class. Drivers education is for high school students, right? Yes — but that's only the beginning. People of every age take refresher courses. We can all use a reminder to buckle our seatbelts ... look in our mirrors frequently ... leave enough space between our car and the next one ... and use our turn signals properly (including turning them off when our turn is complete). Special driver training for older adults also includes specific strategies for dealing with the impact of the cognitive and physical effects of the aging process.

4) Get a checkup. If you are a senior driver, be sure to have regular eye exams and keep your eyeglasses prescription current. Talk to your health-care provider about physical problems that could make driving unsafe. And when filling any prescriptions, ask the doctor or pharmacist if your medications have any potential side effects that could hinder your ability to drive.

5) Have your car inspected. Chances are your car could use a checkup, too! Make sure it is in good working condition. Watch for carpet and pedal wear that could cause the accelerator or brake to stick, or your foot to slip. Keep mirrors, headlights, windshield and wiper blades clean. Have your tires regularly checked for low air pressure and excessive tread wear. Even if your car passes with flying colors, ask yourself if it is still a good fit for your needs. Make adaptive modifications like improved side and rear-view mirrors, a back-up warning buzzer, steering wheel grips or pedal adjustments. If it is large and difficult to maneuver, consider trading for a smaller car.

6) Learn about alternate transportation. In Garden City we are fortunate to have the transit service to "get you where you want to go." If you've never taken advantage of public transportation, start exploring! For destinations not served by transit, use taxi cabs to fill in the blanks. Keep in mind that though taxi cabs are expensive, so is owning and operating a car. Giving up the car means you don't pay for gas, insurance and maintenance. Set a trial period to leave the car in the garage and see how you get along without using it.

In conclusion, if you see someone showing hazardous driving techniques, you can anonymously report that person in writing. Send a letter to Driver Review Section, 915 SW Harrison, Room 100, Topeka, KS 66626. It is always anonymous. They never release the name of the reporting party.

Thanks for help

Many thanks to the volunteers who delivered Meals on Wheels last week. Are you interested in helping with Meals on Wheels? Substitute drivers are always needed. If you would like to help, call Patti at 272-3620 or 260-6282.

Scheduled activities

Thursday, the TOPS Club will meet at 9 a.m., followed by art class at 10 a.m. Gentle exercises start at 11 a.m. The Ambassador Singers practice at 1 p.m. Skip-Bo begins at 1 p.m. Yoga begins at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, the day begins with line dancing at 8:30 a.m. Craft shop check-in/out is from 10 a.m. to noon. A nurse from St. Catherine Hospital will be here from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Bridge starts at 12:45 p.m.

Saturday is Flag Day. The pool room is open from 1 to 4 p.m.

Sunday has duplicate bridge at 2 p.m.

Monday has double pinochle at 12:40 p.m. Duplicate bridge starts at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, the day begins with walking at 8:30 a.m. Gentle exercises begin at 11 a.m. Pitch starts at 12:30 p.m. Bridge begins at 1:15 p.m. The Finney County Committee on Aging will hold their monthly board meeting at 2 p.m.

June 18 has line dancing at 8:30 a.m. TOPS 1116 meets at 10 a.m. Legal aid is by appointment. Call 272-3620 to request an appointment. Library outreach is at 11:30 a.m. Pinochle starts at 12:40 p.m. The regular Wednesday night dance begins at 7:30 p.m. to music of Bob Walter. The recommended donation is $5.

June 19 is our annual luau with dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m. Come join us for seasoned pork, pineapple upside down cake and virgin pina coladas while enjoying island music provided by "Too Many Strings." The cost is $7 per person. The public is welcome. Wear your aloha shirt and grass skirt!

Health tip

June's healthy eating goal is to add two days of strength training to your fitness regimen.

Lunch menus

Lunch is served at noon.

Thursday: Chicken tetrazzini, creamy peas, Italian blend vegetables, bread, apple wedges.

Friday: Pork cutlet, copper penny salad, tossed salad, roll, fruit mix with marshmallows.

Monday: Beef enchiladas, corn, marinated tomatoes, pineapple tidbits.

Tuesday: Oven-fried chicken, potatoes and gravy, green beans, roll, strawberries.

June 18: Goulash, peas, California blend vegetables, roll, blushed pears.

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