More myths of senior drivers debunked
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, November 25 2016
Many people believe seniors have a higher-than-normal crash frequency.
This is not true.
They do have a much higher chance of injury in a crash because of the frailty brought on by advanced age, particularly those over 75 years of age.
Two presenters at the conference made a very strong case that senior-driver harassment by governing bodies exists throughout North America.
But then, this is the stuff of a future column.
Their most common crashes were listed in order of frequency and cause of injury.
The left turn at intersections, across multiple oncoming lanes of traffic, was the most common cause of injury for older drivers.
Several of these types of crashes were attributed to the likelihood of declining depth perception among the elderly.
Many of the crashes happened at night.
The hypersensitivity of seniors to the bright lights of oncoming traffic was a recognized hazardous situation.
The fact that oncoming vehicle drivers could change to the outside through-lane at an intersection, without warning, and be hidden behind the inside lane of two lanes approaching, was also a factor.
In some of these situations, the senior driver was not deemed to be at fault, due to the oncoming driver running a red light.
The second most common mishap is when seniors make a right turn at an intersection.
Many check only the rear-view mirror and side view before such a turn. It is imperative that the driver do a right-shoulder check in order to eliminate the right-side blind spot.
Many seniors find the convex side mirror used by professional drivers is good for reducing this blind spot by up to 90 per cent. Only a slight head turn is required with convex mirrors.
Most seniors lose neck flexibility as they age, and these convex mirrors are a great way to compensate.
The third most common senior crash is the sideswipe. This can happen when changing lanes, passing or when pulling on or off the road.
Again, it is related to the shoulder check.
The rear-end collision is the fourth most common cause of injury for seniors.
Whether being hit from behind or hitting someone from behind, it generally causes bodily injury. Surprisingly, the trouble spot does not seem to be intersections, but rather at yield or merge signs.
Research shows that at age 75-plus, cognitive processing time increases.
This, combined with slower reaction time, causes many seniors to delay unnecessarily and be hit from behind when merging.
Three out of four seniors who suffer a stroke, survive and drive.
Their average hospital stay is 16 days, as opposed to three months prior to the millennium.
Most Parkinson’s sufferers drive for many years after being diagnosed.
Most seniors suffering from dementia lose their licence within two years.
Seniors should be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to all sorts of things, particularly as it pertains to driving.
When they can no longer drive, they have a tendency to become depressed and can often withdraw socially.
Many seniors wait for the dreaded letter from the relevant governing authority, which necessitates a doctor’s visit and a subsequent practical (and possibly a cognitive) driving assessment.
All the geriatric researchers I have spoken to at various conferences agree that education, not testing, is the answer to seniors driving longer and safer.
Prior to intervention by family, government, medical personnel or police, seniors should take charge of their driving situation.
It is best to prepare for an impending driver assessment well ahead of time.
It will definitely relieve the stress of the unknown and the arrival of the dreaded letter.