Seniors giving sideways glances
THE most essential component of safe driving is our awareness of what is happening around us.
At intersections, for example, we need to be aware of vehicles on four sides of the car. But as we age, our peripheral vision decreases.
This happens at a rate of approximately one to three degrees per decade; i.e. in our mid 70s, we could have a 20° to 30° loss. Many of us senior drivers may also experience limited flexibility in our upper torso and necks, making the detection of side-on hazards difficult.
Degenerative diseases, a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, trauma, arthritis, and even an incorrect pillow on which we rest our heads while sleeping, can all contribute to our not only having, but also becoming a pain in the neck. Given that age-related losses will occur to varying degrees, there are adaptive measures which will lessen the risk of accidents.
Checking to the right
Often in large, two-lane traffic circles, one has two options to turn left — either take the glide-off, or enter the circle and take the first exit.
The former has a large blind spot that requires you to swivel your head approximately 150° to monitor the cars in that blind spot. However, if ones chooses to drive directly to the roundabout and then turn left, the angle of turn reduces to less than 90°. This option also has the advantage that you are more visible to oncoming traffic.
If circumventing a roundabout you make an error such as missing an exit, just go round again, indicating that you want to exit the circle.
By law, all cars on your left have to slow down a bit to make space, as the car on the right has the right of way in any circle.
Don’t (no matter how late you are for your dementia support group meeting) just drive across the traffic circle — as I once did to my shame over a traffic circle in the UK in Swindon. Known there as the “Swindon Magic Circle”, it comprises of a central circle surrounded by five smaller satellite circles and looks like a giant diabolical symbol when seen from on high.
I must confess that I once became so frustrated and confused that I did actually drive across one of the smaller circles! If you eliminate the taxi component, it may by comparison dawn upon you how simple South African roads really are.
Hair is one area where women outdo (most) men for dangerous distractions, especially when their hair hangs down, covering half their faces.
A UK study reputedly claimed some scary numbers. Over 190 000 women admitted experiencing a near-miss with other traffic while driving, entirely due to hairstyles that restrict their peripheral vision.
Yet, according to the survey, sadly 67% of the respondents continued to wear hairstyles that would serve a better purpose as blinkers on horses at a race track.
The ‘Swindon Magic Circle’ shows how easy we have it with our circles in SA, once you take minibus taxi drivers out of picture.