Resolve to reflect on driving skills in the new year

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 14, 2016

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METRO DETROIT — The upcoming new year is a time for reflection, and auto safety experts are asking older drivers to honestly evaluate their driving skills for the sake of everyone on the road.

AAA recognized Dec. 5-9 as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, a campaign by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

The auto agency recommended the timing of holiday family gatherings as a time to re-evaluate older drivers’ health and skills behind the wheel. According to AAA, the aging process and its resulting medical problems may contribute to making driving a riskier activity.

AAA Michigan Public Affairs Specialist Gary Bubar said many older drivers begin having problems with vision, in which they will feel uncomfortable driving at night. He also said older drivers may have issues with sensation or cognition.

“It’s hard to be tactful, but in terms of cognition, it’s just something that happens to all of us, that we get older,” he said. “The ability to process information slows down. As a result, drivers tend to want to drive a little bit slower. They don’t like the high speeds of the freeways.”

Bubar said some senior drivers self-regulate their driving habits by not putting themselves into certain driving situations anymore. He added that the winter season tends to bring more darkness, holiday traffic and hazardous road conditions that make honest judgments about driving skills more necessary.

“If there is doubt … first talk to your doctor and make sure that you have all your screenings in place,” Bubar said. “Make sure that if you need glasses that you wear them, particularly during hours of reduced visibility and weather.”

Roberta Habowski, mobility project manager for Myride2, said her program is a “one-call, one-click mobility management service” that arranges transportation for seniors who may not be able to drive independently. It is affiliated with the Area Agency on Aging 1-B.

“What we do is we take in information (on) what the needs are, where they need to go, if they need wheelchair accessibility or not,” she said. “And then we search to find different options for them. We don’t provide the transportation, but we really dig into finding the options for them that are the options that will work.”

Habowski said Myride2 looks at public transit options like SMART buses first. Then it looks at senior centers’ van services. If those options aren’t feasible, private options exist, though they are usually more expensive, she said.

For more information about AAA Michigan, visit michigan.aaa.com, or for the auto agency’s senior driving resources, visit seniordriving.aaa.com.

To learn about the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, visit www.aaa1b.org or call (248) 357-2255. To contact Myride2, visit www.myride2.com or call (855) 697-4332.

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