By Pat Kramer
On Thursday, February 27, 2020, California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Vince Ramirez presented “Age Well, Drive Smart” at Sunland Senior Center to share information on safe driving to mature drivers. Over the next hour and a half, PIO Ramirez presented helpful information and answered questions including, when it is safe to give up your driving priviledges. Here’s a summary of what was presented:
The Baby Boomers (post WWII babies) are a very large population group which is now reaching (or have reached) retirement age. According to CHP statistics, there were 3 million people 65 and older in the State of California in 1990. By 2,000, there were 3.8 million and now in 2020, there are approximately 5.2 million people 65+. By 2020, that number is expected to reach 9 million in the State of California.
The impacts of living:
When a driver is aged 70 or older, it’s time to rate your reaction time, vision and hearing and to understand whether you are impacted by medication or physical issues affecting your legs, feet, hands, back or neck as these can impact the ability to turn, brake or accelerate.
Multitasking is never a good idea!
Additionally, with the advent of Smart Phones, we can now text to others in real time and get phone calls through our Blue Tooth devices. However, it’s never a good idea to multitask – at any age! Looking down at your device, even for one second, can lead to a collision when someone in front of you stops suddenly. You can also swerve into another lane and cause someone else to have an accident.
Why is it so hard for seniors to know when to give up driving?
- Because driving provides seniors with a feeling of self-worth and independence as well as the ability to be social, enjoy recreational opportunities, travel and see friends and family.
- It’s not always easy to use public transportation. Waiting for a bus can expose you to the elements, you may have to walk a distance, and it often means you will have to allow more time to get to your destination.
- Using the Metro system may mean having to drive to a parking lot to get a train, and that can be confusing.
Another reason people don’t give up driving when they are not fully capable of driving safely, is because they don’t necessarily know when their driving is unsafe. It often requires a person’s physician, family member or close friend to intervene.
How do you intervene to get someone off the road?
If you believe that someone should not be driving, you can report the unsafe driver to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Tressa Thompson is the DMV Senior Driver Ombudsman who says if someone is an at-risk driver, a written report needs to be filed with the DMV called “Request for Driver Reexamination” (DS699). The DMV will then initiate an investigation and they will keep the reporter confidential if asked to do so. Both she and CHP Officer Ramirez said this is a serious issue that usually involves the individual’s doctor, who is mandated to report inability to operate a motor vehicle safely, and often friends or family, who may have observed warning signs.
How to report someone as being unsafe behind the wheel?
Tressa says you can get the form at: www.DMV.CA.Gov by searching for “Request for Driver Reexamination” or report DS699. You can also call Tressa if you need more information at: (310) 615-3552
For those who are still healthy and fully functioning, here are some ways to ensure longevity and maintain alertness:
- Get regular exercise
- Engage in brain teasers like puzzles or games
- Stay active – walking, dancing, etc.
- Maintain good nutrition and hydration
- Control alcohol intake
- Take required medications at needed
- Don’t get behind the wheel if a medication affects motor vehicle skills
- Don’t drink and drive
When driving, always use the three second rule: Stay a pace of three seconds behind the car in front of you to avoid sudden stops.
- Drive during off-peak hours.
- Don’t drive at night.
- Use surface streets to avoid freeways.
- Know how to reach your destination before you leave home.
- Have the address and phone number of where you are going written down on paper, not just on your Smart Phone (in case your phone goes dead or gives you wrong info).
- Use public transportation – seniors get a discount on Metro.
Enter ICE information on your phone.
ICE means “in case of emergency.” This information should be put into your phone for emergency responders to use if something should happen and you are unable to speak.
Maintain your vehicle.
Keep your vehicle in good working order, check your tires to see if they are getting low, have your oil checked at regular intervals, make sure you have washer fluid for your windshield, and make sure your headrest and seat belt are adjusted correctly. The headrest should be directly behind your head, not your neck.
When to Call CHP:
While Sunland-Tujunga is part of the City of Los Angeles and is patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Highway Patrol can also be called if there is an emergency on the road. CHP oversees the freeways, county roads, state highways and some unincorporated areas of the City of L.A. They also oversee accidents incidents involving school buses when children are injured.
CHP can also write traffic tickets if they see something illegal occurring in our community!
If you see an incident involving property damage (such as a hit and run) or witness any violence occurring on the road, call it in to either CHP, LAPD or both at the following #s:
- CHP, Altadena Office: (626) 296-8100 (during the day).
- LAPD Valley Traffic: (818) 734-2223 (For hit and runs or other property damage)
- In an emergency, always call “911” or if you spot a drunk driver.
By using an ounce of prevention and caution, most mature drivers can continue to drive safely until it’s time to let others take over by using other means of transportation such as: public assistance, private transportation, buses, Metro or friends and family.
At some point, you may also decide that it’s just “not worth it” to drive long distances, at night, or on the freeways at which point, you can explore other options.