The 100 year old driving school ITV program has highlighted the issues of driving later in life and at the same time a new guide, Behind the Wheel, has been published to help older people stay safe on the roads. The guide (available in large-print and audio as well as online) contains advice on how the effects of ageing can impact driving ability with tips on adapting and recognising when it is time to retire from driving. For example, eye sight commonly deteriorates with age but the good news is that eye tests are free for the over 60’s in the UK and it is worth getting hearing tested too which can be done at the same time at many opticians. If you have any other health concerns that affect your driving, your GP will give you a health MOT. In some cases you must tell the DVLA about your health condition. The guide from Independent Age lists all these conditions as well as tips to adapt driving habits for example, only driving locally if long journeys are becoming tiring. The key focus is on safety for drivers, car occupants and other road users.
One positive safety action that all drivers can take when leaving their cars is the Dutch Reach which was also promoted recently. With this the car occupants open the door with the hand furthest away as it enables the occupant to get a better view in case of approaching cyclists or other vehicles. This gentle rotation may also help maintain flexibility.
Towards the end of the booklet there is a questionnaire to help you think about your capability to meet all the aspects of driving on modern roads from stress to manoeuvring the car. It also points to driver assessment services, like those featured on the TV program where someone will drive with you in your own car to give you impartial advice on your driving safety and some ideas for improvement.
If it is time to retire from driving then there are tips on planning the transition, for example giving up for a week and advice on all the alternatives to getting out and about. Some people find that taxis are cheaper as they no longer have to worry about insurance and maintenance bills – and it’s possible to negotiate a bulk discount for a regular trip! For just popping to local shops and friends, a mobility scooter may help, though these too need to be used safely. The Older Drivers site and the Behind the Wheel booklet both mention use of the internet for shopping and keeping in touch on Skype once retired from driving, but these too are best planned as any new skill takes time to master.
My top tip if you are helping a loved one plan their driving retirement would be that you help them brush up on technology skills long before they are forced to give up driving as a sudden illness may leave them unable to drive for a time and it will be easier for them to pick up new skills while feeling well. If you are not confident with computers then links to training providers are given in the booklet, find a local expert using the Lxpert site or you could look at my advice for getting on line for the first time.
-- Photo credits: Independent Age, ITV.com