West Roxbury Seniors Attend Ethos Seminar on Driving Safer
Ethos and AAA sponsored event to help elderly drivers be better on the road.
The author of this article, Susann Low, is Chair of Pack 336 West Roxbury Cub Scouts.
Dozens of West Roxbury senior drivers headed to the Area E-5 police station for a safe driving seminar hosted by Ethos and presented by AAA's Traffic Safety Manager John Paul on Tuesday.
"As we age, we get wiser because we have more driving experience, but other factors such as eyesight, reaction time and flexibility change our driving skill," said Paul, as he outlined countless 'tips and tricks' to keep seniors driving safely for as long as they wish to stay behind the wheel.
Of great interest was AAA's free online video Roadwise Review discussed at the seminar, which allows the viewer to evaluate his or her own leg strength (for operating a motor vehicle), day and night vision, and mental capabilities — all important factors when driving safely. Paul emphasized that drivers under the age of 25 are the most dangerous drivers — not seniors — due to the fact that the human brain cannot fully assess 'risk' until after the age of 25, so younger drivers are more likely to take risks when behind the wheel but after age 70 everything changes.
Nearly all sensory cues come from our vision such as being able to judge distance, reaction time and the like. "It's important to get an eye exam at least every two years," stated Paul. "And if you have a handicapped placard, please do not hang it from your rear-view mirror while you are driving; it limits how much of the road you'll see clearly. Hang the placard after you've parked the car."
If you don't see as well at dusk or at night, do your traveling during the daylight hours; by age 60 you need three times as much light than when you were 20. As we age, darkness and glare cause us greater challenge because it takes our eyes a bit longer to adjust. To be a safe senior driver, follow these tips:
- Drive on well-lit streets.
- Be sure your headlights are clean; talk to your mechanic about installing one of the slightly brighter bulbs made by Sylvania or GE for reduced glare, but more brightness.
- Keep your windows clean inside and out; the interior of cars today are mostly plastic and it gives off a film that can coat your interior windows.
- Avoid driving in rainy or bad weather.
- Keep a squeegee in your car to remove dew or rain spots.
- Clean your eyeglasses or sunglasses before you begin driving.
- Keep physically flexible; as we age our peripheral vision narrows so be sure you can look over your left and right shoulders to ensure you can see what's to the side and behind your vehicle.
- Back off! As we age our decision-making process slows so don't drive too close to the next vehicle — allow yourself some space.
- Don't like crowded or fast moving traffic? Take the side roads or avoid rush hour.
- Concentrate on the road, not car conversation or ringing cell phones and no texting!
- Hate making left-hand turns at an intersection? Do what UPS and FedEx does; take three right turns and cross the intersection safely.
- Exercise your brain regularly! Do challenging mind games to keep your brain is a muscle so exercise it!
- Keep your eyes UP when driving — not focused at the end of your car's hood. The farther you see ahead the better prepared you will be and you will be better able to react faster.
- If you begin a new medication, be sure you and your doctor discuss if this could alter your driving ability — even slightly — and then prepare to work around this if necessary. (Even an over the counter medication such as a decongestant can make you drowsy and could easily challenge your driving abilities.)
How do you know when it's time to say 'when' and give up driving? This is a personal decision and a difficult one at that. Perhaps other drivers on the road have become increasingly impatient with you as a fellow driver and are honking their horns at you often; maybe a few too many 'fender benders' in the last year or two; perhaps you find you cannot get to your destinations easily any longer; perhaps 'family interventions' questioning your driving abilities are being held. This is a personal decision that bears consideration.
"I know that the Mayor's office sells taxi coupon books and I keep them in my pocketbook; they are my 'Linus blanket' so I can get around town," stated one senior. "If you don't use your car but three to four times a year, it might be more costly to keep it on the road with insurance, gas, maintenance and all; taxis here and there might be cheaper. Boston Senior magazine has taxi coupons that are a real value at 50 percent each, I use those."
This seminar was brought to fruition by Ethos' pilot initiative, AgeWell West Roxbury, which serves the seniors in Southwest Boston. "West Roxbury has the largest percentage of seniors living in their homes so we bring these programs to the community to make our older residents aware of the information out there and, in turn, we increase their opportunities to socialize," stated Ethos' Healthy Aging Program Manager Janice Williams.
"We want you and your family to always drive safely so we begin doing this around kindergarten age with programs that range anywhere from bike and pedestrian safety to school safety patrol to pre-permit programs for teens that don't quite yet have their drivers' licenses. We are also running driving schools and have a variety of programs all the way through senior citizen age," stated John Paul of AAA. "Take a few minutes and review what we offer by visiting www.aaa.com and click on the public affairs header. All our programs are listed and you can review them easily and at your convenience."
Susann Low is Chair of
Pack 336 West Roxbury Cub Scouts