Senior citizens are cautious drivers. Just ask the hot-rodder anxious to pass an elderly motorist who’s obeying the speed limit.
But if seniors are safe behind the wheel, why should they take a class to improve their driving?
The answer, of course, is their age.
“As we age, abilities related to driving change – vision, flexibility, brain agility, memory,” says Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman for AAA Washington, in Bellevue. “And the impact of a crash on our bodies exponentially increases.”
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To help senior motorists, AAA Washington offers free information online about safer driving for seniors, a guide to the impact of medications on elderly drivers and registration for AAA’s accredited driver improvement classes.
The classes are offered both in classrooms and online and are available to AAA members and non-members alike.
The next classroom course in Bellingham will be held March 22. The eight-hour class from American Driving Services of Seattle is a refresher course on defensive driving skills, new traffic laws and new automotive devices and features, such as roundabouts. The class fee is $18 for AAA members, $25 for non-members.
Seniors also can take the course at their leisure online.
If we’re aware of the changes that happen to our bodies, we can alter how we drive, when we drive, and address our body’s changes with the ultimate goal of driving safe as possible for as long as possible.
Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman for AAA Washington
People 55 and older who complete the course, whether online or in a classroom, qualify for discounts in their auto insurance, often in the range of 2 to 4 percent.
AAA Washington also has an online service called RoadwiseRx. Seniors can enter their prescription medications to learn if they impact a driver’s ability behind the wheel.
Seniors should be sure to check with their physician for further details and to learn the impacts of taking multiple medications.
For many seniors, becoming a safer driver is a family matter, with grown children often initiating the discussion.
“The key is to start talking early and make small changes as abilities change: reducing nighttime driving, staying closer to home, getting an occupational therapist to help with agility and identifying alternative mobility options,” Cook says. “That way it’s not as much of a shock when the risk outweighs the benefits of continued driving.”
For many seniors, there comes a time when it’s prudent to give up driving entirely. Until that time, smart planning, refresher courses and honest talk with family members and your physician can extend the time it’s still safe to drive.
“Nobody wants to lose the freedom that is associated with driving,” Cook says. “If we’re aware of the changes that happen to our bodies, we can alter how we drive, when we drive and address our body’s changes with the ultimate goal of driving safe as possible for as long as possible.”
Bellingham office: 4280 Meridian St., Suite 106; 360-733-2740
American Driving Services: 206-243-3564
As people plan for retirement and beyond, they should plan how they will get around for errands, fun, and other outings. While many retirees are good drivers, old age raises mental and physical challenges as motorists advance in years.
While driverless cars might benefit seniors in the future, there’s plenty that older drivers can do now:
▪ Retire in places with convenient public transit and walking trails.
▪ Consider ride-sharing services for short trips and for connections to public transit.
▪ Join a group, such as Bellingham At Home, 360-746-3462, that offers transportation help to members.
▪ Discuss your future mobility needs with family members.
▪ Buy vehicles with devices helpful to senior drivers, such as rear-view cameras.