Older drivers can stay safer n the road for longer by reflecting on their driving and being honest about the tasks they are starting to find more difficult. The support of family members can also be helpful – so long as any tricky conversations are approached with tact and sensitivity.
That’s according to road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist, whose Still Safe to Drive resource (stillsafetodrive.org.uk) offers a range of informative videos, presented by Valerie Singleton OBE. There are links to many organisations who
offer specific assistance for senior drivers, as well as some good 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 to detect any possible problems early.
* Get a Driver MOT, such as the driver assessment offered by GEM in association with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. It’s an enjoyable way of updating your skills.
* 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.
“Reaching a certain age does not automatically mean a complete loss of your ability to drive, judge distances and read road signs,” GEM Road Safety Officer Neil Worth said. “The process of ageing is different for every single person. That’s why senior drivers should reflect on their own driving, understand where they may be experiencing difficulty and find out where they can get practical advice.
Popular opinion too often suggests that older drivers are a menace and should take mandatory re-tests – or be purged from the highway. However, GEM is keen to encourage senior drivers to stay mobile as long as they are safe, while 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,” Neil Worth added. “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.”
Speed awareness courses mooted for Scotland
Scottish motorists convicted of a speeding offence could avoid penalty points by agreeing to take a Speed Awareness Course if new plans come to fruition.
The Scotsman reported that the Lord Advocate James Wolffe has called for the introduction of SACs in Scotland – which would bring the country into line with England and Wales – and that a working group involving the Crown Office will now consider the proposal.
“We have been calling for this for many years,” Neil Greig, Policy Director for the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ RoadSmart division, said. “There’s no reason we should not have SACs in Scotland, when they have been such a big success in England.”
A Crown Office submission to the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee noted: “These proposals have been considered carefully by the Lord Advocate, who has
agreed in principle to SACs as an alternative to prosecution in appropriate cases. This is subject to approval of the specific arrangements which are to be put in place. A multi-agency working group will devise the necessary infrastructure and guidance required to support the introduction of SACs in Scotland.”
A spokesperson for Police Scotland, which along with Transport Scotland will also be part of the working group, added: “We have received approval in principle to commence work to introduce SACs to Scotland. Once this has been completed and approved by the Lord Advocate we will be able to consider implementation.”
Speed Awareness Courses have operated south of the border for around ten years. They typically cost around £100 and last for about four hours.