By Paul Beard
Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist says older drivers can stay safer for longer by reflecting on their driving and being honest about tasks they may find more difficult.
Support from family members can be very helpful, as long as any tricky conversations with a senior driver are approached with tact and sensitivity. GEM road safety officer Neil Worth commented: “Reaching a certain age does not automatically mean a complete loss of your ability to drive, judge distances and read road signs. The process of ageing is different for every single person. That’s why GEM is keen to encourage senior drivers to reflect on their own driving, to understand where they may be experiencing difficulty and to find out where they can get practical advice.
GEM’s ‘Still Safe to Drive’ resource (stillsafetodrive.org.uk) offers a line-up of informative videos, presented by Valerie Singleton OBE.
There are links to many organisations who offer specific assistance for senior drivers as well as the following key tips for staying safe behind the wheel:
• Get fit and stay fit. If possible, do some exercise for 15 to 20
minutes each day.
• Get a regular eye test. This allows early detection of possible
• Get a driver MOT, such as the driver assessment offered by
GEM in association with the Royal Society for the Prevention
of Accidents (RoSPA). It’s an enjoyable way of updating your
skills. Call 0121 248 2099 for more details.
• Make sure the car you drive best suits your current needs.
• Adapt your driving to avoid journeys or manoeuvres that cause
you stress or discomfort.
• Reflect on your driving, learn from your mistakes and near
misses. Don’t pretend they’re not happening.
• Plan your journeys to avoid using the roads at really busy
times, and build in plenty of breaks on longer journeys.
They say that speed kills but a lapse in concentration could be just as fatal. Another myth with motoring is that old people aren’t competent to drive and they are a menace. Well, this is just not true. You can have an accident at any age and statistics show that you are more likely to do so within the first three years after passing your test.
When a bad situation arises it doesn’t matter who you are either. Take the recent high-profile incident that involved HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Yes, he is a senior driver and yes he made an error. However, he has almost been ‘forced’ into relinquishing his licence because he is a high-profile person and because of (wrong) general public opinion: you could say this is ageism! The point is, we need to evaluate each case in the same way and never ‘assume’ blame.