Self-reflection is key to longer-term safety for older drivers, says GEM Motoring Assist

Posted on November 18th, 2013 by GEM Motoring Assist

SENIOR DRIVERS WHO can plan ahead and reflect on their own performance are likely to stay safer for longer, says road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist. This latest advice forms part of ‘Still Safe to Drive’, GEM’s video-based web resource to help drivers stay as safe as possible for as long as possible.

Learning to reflect on your own driving practice is a really good piece of road safety advice, according to GEM chief executive David Williams MBE. “Where you are not so good or confident, can you seek to reduce the occasions or locations causing your driving difficulty? If your eyesight’s not good at night, then don’t drive at night. If low sun and glare cause you a problem, then you will know when and where you are likely to encounter them, and can try to plan your journeys accordingly so that the problem is reduced,” he says.

“If you’re worried that your driving has become more erratic or less safe, then don’t ignore the warning signs. Confront the problem and you may find there’s a simple solution. For example, how easy is it to keep your foot still on the accelerator? For some senior drivers, aches and pains – or even muscular jerking – means this can be difficult. The problem could be reduced simply by adjusting the position of your seat.”

David Williams advises drivers to pose a few other basic safety questions. “Can you see the speedometer from where you sit? Has your vision changed? These are two basic issues central to safer driving,” he says. “Whereas younger drivers can make relatively quick adjustments from close vision to far vision, older drivers usually take a lot longer, so you might be trying to manage by not glancing down at the speedometer. Consider an eye test and get some advice from a medical professional straightaway, as you do not want to put yourself and others at risk – or face fines and penalty points – by being unaware of the speeds you use.”

Another issue to consider is how sensitive you are to the feedback from the car. “Modern cars give much less feedback, fewer rattles, growls, engine noises and vibrations,” says David Williams.  “So drivers have to be more sensitive to what feedback there is, and for older drivers it can be much harder to notice. Without these cues, your ability to stay at a constant speed is much reduced.”

Tips from GEM Motoring Assist for when it’s time to stop driving:

  • We believe it’s important to confront safety issues connected with ageing as soon as possible. Make smaller, more frequent adjustments to your journeys or the time of day you use the car.
  • Get used to other modes of transport before you have to rely on them completely. Making the adjustment to multi-modal travel before you give up the car completely will help ensure you miss it less. And if you’ve become used to other modes of transport, then the shift away from the car will feel much less drastic when the times comes.
  • Discuss issues of ageing, transport and future mobility with family and friends. Think about what adjustments might work and how they can help.
  • Plan ahead – it really brings benefits. There’s no medicine or tonic that solves the issue of ageing, but if you’re thinking about making a few changes, then the process will be less difficult for you and your family members.
  • Make decisions on how you will get around based on a social approach rather than on legislation. Don’t wait to deal with the issue because you’re forced to. And certainly don’t risk being unsafe on the road when there could well be just a few simple changes that could reduce this risk significantly.

For more advice on transport planning in later life, please visit www.stillsafetodrive.org.uk