AMA driving course geared toward senior drivers

Drivers in the 55-plus age group had a chance to hone their driving skills at an AMA driver education course.

Drivers in the 55-plus age group had a chance to hone their driving skills at an AMA driver education course.

Senior instructor Cathy Mantika, who taught the course held at the Drop In Centre Nov. 5 and 6, offered sound advice to senior drivers who want to keep safe on the road.

While drivers 55-plus have significant experience and are less likely to take risks behind the wheel, sometimes they need to tweak their driving habits slightly to ensure their safety and the safety of other drivers.

Driving abilities generally begin to change by age 55, but each driver has differing skills regardless of age.

Mantika noted many medications, including prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, could interfere with a driver’s ability by making them drowsy or less attentive.

Anyone, no matter what age, who gets behind the wheel, needs to understand the physical effects of any medications taken before driving. Anyone who plans to drive a vehicle and takes more than one type of medications needs to check with their doctor to determine whether the combination produces side effects that could interfere with driving.

After 40, vision begins to change and the amount of light needed to drive nearly doubles every 13 years. To see clearly, a 60-year-old requires 10 times as much light as a teenager.

The eye’s ability to focus slows with age. A teenager takes about two seconds to focus on an object close to them and then to one farther away, yet a 40-year-old takes three or more seconds to focus his eyes from the speedometer to the road.

Sensitivity to glare increases as a person ages as well. At age 55, it takes eight times longer to recover from glare than at age 16. Color, especially red, becomes less bright and harder to see as one ages. As well, peripheral vision narrows and depth perception lessens, making it more difficult to determine how fast other vehicles are traveling.

Mantika also cautioned seniors about the perils of drinking and driving.

“I’m not here to preach about alcohol, but if we expect the young drivers in our family to have a designated driver, why shouldn’t we as well if we have had a drink?”

A 15-question self-rating quiz taken privately which asks about driving skills and habit and provides suggestions for improvement of risk driving practices can be accessed at ama.ab.ca/AgingDrivers or at any AMA centre by asking for the Drivers 55Plus: Check Your Own Performance booklet.

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