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Older driver safety awareness week

Whether we want to admit it or not, aging is inevitable. The ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional and cognitive health.

Although these changes are part of normal aging, they occur at different times and different rates for different people.

The older members of our community have been around the block a few times, both literally and figuratively. We want to help ensure that older drivers can remain on the road and drive in a safe and responsible manner.

Driving is a complex skill, and age alone is not equated to driving risk. Changes in medications, pain and stiffness, recovery from surgery, and side effects from arthritis and other chronic conditions can impact their safety and confidence behind the wheel.

These changes don't have to mean giving up the keys, at least not right away. There are driving equipment and adaptations that are available to help seniors stay on the road longer and more safely.

Most seniors make changes to their driving habits on their own. Simple changes such as limiting driving to daylight hours, avoiding freeways, avoiding rush hour, driving only on familiar roads and not driving long distances reduces many key risk factors and helps improve their safety.

Some other features seniors can look at to make them safer drivers include making sure the driver "fits" in the vehicle.

--Make sure you wear your seat belt every time you get in your car and that it fits properly. If not, adjust it.

--Determine if there is a safe distance between the driver and the air bag.

--Adjust your seat so that your feet touch the pedals properly.

--Adjust your mirrors for optimal visibility and to reduce your blind spots.

--Bring along your cell phone so you have it handy in an emergency. Do not talk on your cell phone while driving.

What counts on the road is performance. Having a series of minor crashes or near misses; getting lost on familiar roads; and being spoken to about your driving by police, family, and friends are a few signs of diminished capacity for safe driving.

Although many older drivers prefer to ask family and friends to help them get around, alternative transportation options do exist. Call Rainbow Rider in Douglas County and give them a try. Find out how well public transportation works.

Early planning is key. Finding out more about your community choices - even before you need them - can help keep you connected to your community and keep you participating in those activities that are important to you.

If you have questions about these community choices or any other services related to seniors, give me a call at (320) 762-3047.