lose-up of a man driving a car with a hand on a horn button. Sunset filter

This month, we focus on how your mood and age can affect the way you drive.

How Mood Affects Safety

  • Being late on a call can lead to unsafe driving and increase the risk of accidents. Always allow extra time for traffic and give passengers an ETA you can keep.
  • Leave personal problems at home. Focus on safe driving and customer service.
  • Do not get excited or angry with other motorists’ aggressions.
  • Do not act on impulses, always scan the entire area before proceeding.
  • Daydreaming: Limit your daydreaming to when you are parked. Good defensive driving requires 100% concentration at all times.
  • Focus: Avoid getting locked into radio stations which may cause you to have so much fun you lose your concentration.

How to Improve Seniors’ Driving Skills (By Dale Buss, Contributor)

The dangers posed by senior drivers – combined with the difficulty of figuring out when they have reached the point of posing a risk – are spurring unprecedented efforts to come up with solutions. These initiatives to improve seniors’ driving skills include more self-limited driving, improvement classes, vision adjustments, physical rehabilitation, cognitive-skills enhancement and tougher licensing laws. The following looks at some of what researchers, insurers, not-for-profit associations, health-care organizations, government agencies and seniors are doing in each area.

Driving Improvement Classes. Older drivers are finding more ways to gauge their own effectiveness behind the wheel. The American Automobile Association Foundation has an online self-rating form for drivers 55 and older. Several other organizations are making similar resources available via the internet.

More seniors also are taking it upon themselves to improve their driving by attending self-help classes. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers a driver safety program at sites around the country and online. The eight-hour class is for drivers 50 and older. Often, participants can take their certificate of completion and show it to their insurance company for a 5-10% discount on their premiums, according to Jack Stegeman, an AARP instructor in Michigan.

Vision Adjustments. The declining vision of seniors is the most difficult aspect of driving to mitigate. “Ninety to 95% of the information you get in driving is visual information,” explains Dr. Philip Hessburg, president of the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. Yet many vision-impaired older people take a big swipe at the problem simply by declining to drive at twilight or later. Others realize major improvements after having cataract or other eye surgery. Some researchers believe that more diligent instruction of senior drivers actually can help them use their vision more effectively, even if they can’t restore their eyes physically.

“A common problem with seniors is that they fail to scan appropriately by moving their eyes completely through the driving environment,” said psychology professor, Richard Backs. Seniors may spend too long focusing on changing lanes, for example, risking an accident by not shifting their attention to traffic approaching in their rearview mirror. Some seniors invest in the handful of devices that have proven to improve senior road vision, such as special eyeglasses that reduce glare and have a telescopic function.

Physical Rehabilitation. The elderly can actually improve their driving skills and help stave off decline through various types of exercise and physical therapy. Research by the Yale University School of Medicine found that even a moderate regimen of physical therapy specifically designed for the task – only 15 minutes of exercises a day – could significantly improve flexibility, coordination and speed of movement of extremities in drivers 70 years old and older afflicted with various limitations, such as arthritis. The success of the therapy is projected to improve driving performance by at least an 8% lower crash occurrence over two years.

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Article by Bertram Merling

Bertram Merling is the Loss Control Coordinator for the Hereford Insurance Company.

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