Tuesday, May 30, 2023

A call to seniors: revive, refresh and take charge of your driving

by Dr. Sheldon Zinberg
| September 19, 2007 12:00 AM

We have all heard the stories about senior drivers. In 2003, an 86-year-old man killed 10 and injured 50 when he drove his car through a California farmers' market. In 2005, a 93-year-old man hit a pedestrian not even noticing the body in his windshield until a tollbooth operator informed him.

Too often, when we hear these stories the knee-jerk reaction is, "Keep senior citizens off the road. They are too dangerous and not worth the risk." Is that the answer? No.

Although drivers 60 and older are one of the two groups most likely to be involved in a car accident, the answer is for seniors to take charge and improve their driving skills in order to maintain their independence while keeping the roads safe.

The baby boomer generation will add more than 40 million senior drivers to U.S. roadways by the year 2030.

According to the AARP, "older drivers' typical violations include failure to yield right-of-way, improper turning, and incorrect lane changing.

Generally, older drivers have problems in driving situations that require quick response, full vision, and interaction with other drivers."

It is a fact, as we get older certain skills decline making it more difficult to drive safely.

In order for the senior population to maintain independence, seniors must evaluate and assess which skills are lacking and then refresh those skills.

As we get older, our muscles become weak and our bones become frail. For too long, aging seniors were content to sit back and let nature take its course.

But no longer - seniors are becoming very aware of their physical limitation and taking actions to slow or even reverse nature's course. Why would driving be any different?

Many of these questions were answered for me, recently, when I attended the AARP Life@50+ National Event & Expo in Boston, Massachusetts.

I was representing the company "Nifty after Fifty" which I founded because I recognized that many of the undesirable aspects of aging could be delayed, prevented, or even reversed.

I was joined by a company called Raydon that also appreciates this concept. Raydon manufactures the simulators used by our armed forces, but they also produce driving simulators that allow individuals to evaluate and revive their driving skills without the trial-and-error consequences of practicing on the road.

Recognizing the growing need to objectively evaluate senior driving skills, Raydon teamed with the Eastern Virginia Medical School to develop the Functional Driving Assessment (FDATM) program. I, along with hundreds of other seniors, was fascinated by the technology and I was reinvigorated at the possibility of so many seniors reviving their driving skills.

I saw individuals who had given up driving decide that with the safe practice of simulator driving, they could take charge of their lives once again.

I saw others who were not aware of their diminished skills realize where they needed to practice.

Many states and school districts are already incorporating simulated driver training.

After viewing the dozens of seniors that benefited from one session in the FDATM program, I am convinced that it needs to be more widely incorporated. Virtual driver training through simulation will give seniors the opportunity to test and improve their driving skills, allowing them to more safely exercise their independence.