Se­niors giv­ing side­ways glances

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - HENRY SPENCER • Henry Spencer au­thors books on age­ing. More on half­mens@telkomsa.net

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.

Long hair­styles

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.

PHOTO: BBC

The ‘Swin­don Magic Cir­cle’ shows how easy we have it with our cir­cles in SA, once you take minibus taxi driv­ers out of pic­ture.

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