Honesty and family support for safer senior driving

Road safety and breakdown organisation in Britain, 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 helpful, as long as any tricky conversations with a senior driver are approached with tact and sensitivity.

GEM’s road safety officer Neil Worth says reaching a certain age does not automatically mean a complete loss of one's ability to drive, judge distances and read road signs.

"The process of ageing is different for every single person." he says. "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."

According to GEM, popular opinion too often suggests older drivers are a menace and should undergo mandatory re-tests, or be purged from the highway. However, the organisation is keen to encourage senior drivers to stay mobile as long as they are safe, while also ensuring they remain physically and mentally comfortable with the driving task.

“Self-reflection starts with an acceptance that we’re all more vulnerable on the road than we think we are,” sys Worth. “It includes a willingness to recognise the situations that may lead to increased risk, and to ask where, when and why they occur.

“Learning from those situations, perhaps with some expert help, is a good way for a senior driver to stay as safe as possible for as long as possible.”

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 which 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 problems.

- 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 is an enjoyable way of updating skills. Call 0121 248 2099 for more details.

- Make sure one's car best suits current needs.

- Adapt one's driving to avoid journeys or manoeuvres that cause you stress or discomfort.

- Reflect on driving, learn from mistakes and near misses. Don’t pretend they’re not happening.

- Plan journeys to avoid using the roads at really busy times, and build in plenty of breaks on longer journeys.

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