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Safe Behind the Steering Wheel

A car is more than a means of transportation. It's your link to independence, friends, social events and so much more.

But at some point, we all have to give up the keys. Knowing when may save you or a loved one from injury or even death. And there may be advantages to not driving that you haven't considered.

An Increase in Accidents

Although older drivers are less likely to drive while intoxicated and more likely to wear seat belts, they're still at greater risk for an accident than most other age groups.

Drivers ages 16 to 19 have the highest accident rate - 30 per 100 million vehicle miles driven - but drivers age 65 and older rank second. Sixty-five-year-olds have an accident rate of only five per 100 million vehicle miles driven, but the rate rises to 40 by age 85. The most common problems of older drivers are failure to yield the right-of-way, making improper left turns, difficulties turning at an intersection, and driver inattention.

Evaluate Your Skills

Every time you get behind the wheel, your safety and that of others is at stake. That's why it's important to frequently evaluate your driving skills.

If you do not think you can be unbiased, question your friends or family. They possibly know your capabilities better than any person, but may be unsure to pinpoint problems unless questioned. You might even wish to consult with your doctor.

To reduce your accident risk:

  • Stay off roads where the pace of traffic is more demanding than you can handle.
  • Avoid driving at night and in bad weather.
  • Plan your route beforehand so you can concentrate on driving, not navigating. Have a passenger help with navigating when possible.
  • Avoid driving on long trips you find exhausting or confusing.
  • Allow plenty of room between your car and the one in front of you so you can react to changing traffic.
  • Check your mirrors often for traffic behind and alongside of you, instead of only looking ahead.
  • Glance over your shoulder to check traffic when changing lanes.
  • Have a loud clicker installed if your turn signal is hard to hear.
  • Remember that medications such as anti-hypertensives, as well as sleep aids taken as long as one or two days before, can affect your alertness.
  • Consider a behind-the-wheel tune-up. Some organizations may be offering defensive driving courses.

Driving Skills Quiz

If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you may want to limit your driving or take steps to improve a problem. If you answer Yes to most of the questions, it may be time to consider letting someone else do your driving for you.

  • Does driving make you feel physically exhausted or tense?
  • Do you have trouble seeing vehicles, signs, and pedestrians?
  • Do cars always seem to emerge from nowhere?
  • During nighttime, does the beam from oncoming headlights briefly “blind” you?
  • Do you find intersections complicated?
  • Are you finding it difficult to analyze the distance between automobiles?
  • Do you have a hard time coordinating your foot and hand movements?
  • Are you sluggish than you used to be in acting to dangerous conditions?
  • Do you occasionally get lost in accustomed neighborhoods?
  • Do other drivers always beep at you?
  • Have you had a growing amount of traffic violations, near-accidents or accidents in the previous year?

On the Bright Side

Your car might seem like your only way to get around, but there are alternatives. They include family, friends and public transportation.

You may also find certain benefits to hanging up your keys. One is no longer paying to maintain your car.

In addition, you may see more of your family and friends when they give you rides.

Society | Self-Help


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