Caring for Your Parents: Senior Driving Safety
Refresher courses can minimize risk
ANCHORAGE - For most of us being able to drive means being independent, but as we age, sometimes our skills aren’t as sharp as they used to be. Many of us worry about our aging parents behind the wheel, but if their health is good and their vehicle is sound they may just need a refresher course.
AARP offers a low cost driver safety course that is specifically aimed at drivers over 50. It’s taught on a regular basis at the Anchorage Senior Center and, although it is classroom only, the two-day course is packed with information.
82-year-old Don McDermott is one of the instructors. On a recent day he drove through Anchorage and reflected on some of the challenges older drivers face.
“Driving at night of course,” says McDermott. “And just driving in Alaska with the weather we have, where you don’t see the street markings for much of the year.”
McDermott has driven Anchorage streets for more than 40 years and has definitely seen some changes.
“It just takes a little bit longer. You have to pay attention to where people are and what they are doing.”
Older drivers under the age of 75 are as safe or safer than anyone on the road. The crash rate goes up over age 75. But McDermott says, more importantly, older drivers are more likely to have serious injuries from a crash.
“As a general rule they have fewer wrecks than other drivers, but a wreck for an older person is a lot more serious.”
Brushing up on skills can make the difference, and McDermott says driver safety classes like those taught by AARP can be a great refresher. Seniors who take the class can get an insurance break as well as the knowledge they need to navigate the road safely.
Even so, McDermott says, there may come a time when a senior has to surrender their car keys, and often times it’s a family member who has to break the news. It can be one of the most difficult conversations to have.
McDermott recommends a publication from Hartford Insurance Company called “We need to talk… Family conversations with older drivers.” It has lots of information and practical advice. You can find that online at http://hartfordauto.thehartford.com/UI/Downloads/FamConHtd.pdf. You can also find out more about caring for your parents by texting KTVAAGING to 28201.