Friday, 12 July 2013

How you can contribute to senior driver safety

When we're asked to think of an age group that most frequently comes to mind as being the most at risk of involvement in motor vehicle collisions, the demographic that we automatically think of is that of the adolescent driver—after all, don't they pay the highest auto insurance premiums? However, there is another age group that deserves just as much focus and attention when it comes to education about improved driver safety: senior drivers. In fact, while we know that there are many factors contributing to the passing of persons over 65, most are surprised to learn that car accidents are actually among the leading causes of death for such persons. For this reason, it's important to create awareness around these risks, and to implement strategies for minimizing those dangers. What can you do to promote elderly driver safety?

Make sure the elderly driver in question has access to a vehicle suited to their needs. Many modifications can be made to basic models of most makes of cars to facilitate driving for the elderly. These modifications are not a matter of luxury, they're a matter of safety, because where the driver's comfort and confidence are increased, so is their ability to make and execute safe driving decisions on the road. The available modifications for drivers with special needs run the entire gamut from something as simple as cushions, to something as sophisticated as hand controls, to everything in between, like pedal extensions. Chances are, if you have a need, it can be met. Your insurance provider should know of the options available to you for this sort of customization, and should be able to recommend reliable providers of these services.

Know the signs of a driver whose safety is compromised by aging. There are tell-tale signs that a person may be approaching the stage at which they are no longer fit to drive. First and foremost among these is declining vision. When vision is compromised, this can spell disaster on the road—especially in adverse weather conditions, which diminish visibility even further. Slow reflexes are another cause for concern. Other indicators that it may be time to slow down include getting lost on familiar routes, being pulled over for any type of traffic violation, and having a physician or a relative explicitly express concern over the driver's ability on the road.

Know how to talk to an elderly driver whom you believe to be at risk. Expressing concern to a loved one over their ability to drive is an extremely sensitive task. There is much at play here: feelings of fear at the potential loss of independence and freedom, resentment about their perceived weakness, and depression over the inevitability of aging are all common reactions whenever elderly persons are confronted with their own decline. If such a conversation causes them to become too agitated or upset, they will not take your concerns seriously, and will continue putting themselves (and others) at risk. This is why tact is crucial in such cases. Be sure that your words are carefully chosen so as not to diminish the driver's sense of self-respect, and to reflect that you are acting out of love and concern for their well-being above all.


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