Safe Driving for Senior Citizens

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Safe driving is important at any age, particularly so for the senior driver.

The city put on a Mobility Expo, an event for the mature driver, at OASIS Senior Center on Wednesday. The event focused on how to keep a driver’s license, important insurance information, safety precautions, and finding the safest fit in their vehicles.

“We’re (both) 92 and I’ve been driving since I was 15,” said Ann Martin of Newport Beach.

She and her husband, Jack, who has been driving about the same amount of time, attended the expo on Wednesday.

They both grew up in the Midwest, Jack Martin said, during the time when licenses were just starting to be required. He didn’t get one, she did.

“You could start driving when you could reach the pedals,” Jack Martin said.

But more years of experience doesn’t necessarily make for a better driver, they both agreed.

“Your eyes and ears change… Your perception. You just have physical changes,” that can make it more difficult to drive safely on the road, Ann Martin said.

These changes don’t necessarily mean the person will be a bad driver, they both agreed, maybe just work a little harder.

“You have to be more aware of what’s going on around you, possibly more than you did when you were younger,” Jack Martin said. As a person gets older, their reflexes and reaction time will likely slow down, he added, so they need to pay closer attention to the road.

Attending the expo was a good way to remind themselves of the rules of the road, safety precautions and learn any updated information, they agreed.

“It’s refreshing,” Jack Martin said about the expo and all the safe driving information. “It keeps you on your toes.”

The event featured guest speakers from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the California Department of Insurance, AARP and the AAA CarFit program were on hand. Richard Kohr, DMV Senior Ombudsman, was a favorite speaker of the Martins.

CarFit is an educational program for seniors to check how well their vehicles “fit” them. It is a collaborative effort between the American Society of Aging, AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association.

The expo also had vendor tables and a raffle for free gas.

The Martins went to the event to learn, specifically to find out the characteristics one should have or the criteria of when it’s decided someone should stop driving, she said.

It could be something permanent, she said, like Alzheimer’s or dementia for example. Or it could be a temporary problem that maybe medication is causing, she added, which could easily be remedied.

But of course, they don’t have to have a disease or prescription drugs  to be a bad driver, she said.

“I’ve seen a lot of drivers (of all ages) that don’t have dementia, but they’re lousy drivers,” she said.

It’s all about paying attention and quick reflexes, they agreed.

Another piece of helpful information they learned from the expo: Avoid left-hand turns. Make right-hand turns as often as possible, Ann Martin said.

“Those left-hand turns are dynamite,” she said.

A high number of accidents involve drivers yielding to turn left on busy city streets, she said. And the driver saves gas.

“Stay away from heavy traffic areas,” she said.

The speaker also recommended mapping out a planned route so drivers can avoid heavy traffic areas, congested intersections and those dangerous left-hand turns.

The expo also gave out information about how seniors can get around after they stop driving.

It’s important to being able to drive, they agreed, so brushing up on the safety and road rules is essential.

“You wouldn’t get anywhere,” without a car Jack Martin said, and most people don‘t want to give that up because “when you can’t drive you lose your independence.”

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