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7 Ways You Can Get Started With Defensive Driving When Snowbirds Come To Town

As the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire, many elderly people continue to hit the road to visit with friends, family, and loved ones. Of course, this is especially true for snowbirds returning to warmer climates during the colder seasons.

There has been an increase in the older driving population as modern health care extends the average lifespan. This means more elders than ever before have drivers licenses, increasing that quality of life and freedom of these honored members of society.

However, an inevitable side effect of aging is the deterioration of working memory, cognition, and eyesight, and all these factors play heavily into your ability to drive. For other drivers, it pays to be cautious on the road around elderly people, as their skills may have deteriorated slightly. Luckily, it’s easy to accommodate older drivers on the road if you follow some simple steps.

  1. Watch out for swerving drivers. Some seniors don’t realize they’re moving from left to right in a lane, causing other drivers to wonder at the possibility of a drunk driver on the road. If you see a swerving snowbird, accelerate past them or take another route.
  2. Be careful of cars turning left to cross oncoming traffic. Research suggests that older people are more likely than other drivers to be in collisions when turning left across traffic, particularly at junctions without signals. This is, even more, the case during high-pressure turns where there’s a time limit. If you see a car turning ahead across your lane of traffic, maintain your current speed but keep a sharp eye out for the other vehicle’s timing.
  3. Be wary at roundabouts. For some drivers, roundabouts are a new addition to the road system that they may not be used to, and they may be more likely to make mistakes. This is especially true of brand new roundabouts built during the offseason. Go slow around roundabouts, and be sure your lights are on for maximum visibility.
  4. Be mindful driving at sunset and sunrise. Increased brightness is harder for older eyes to adapt to, and what would be three seconds of a sun-induced whiteout for a younger driver can impair a senior’s vision for as long as nine seconds. Use extra caution when driving around snowbirds around the sunset and sunrise, and be sure to wear sunglasses to reduce your own sun-blindness.
  5. Don’t equate driving slowly with driving unsafely. Unless a car is going dramatically slower than the speed of traffic, try to maintain your cool if you’re behind a slow driver. Operating a vehicle at a slower speed is actually safer, so if you need a silver lining while you’re going ten under the limit, remember that you’re reducing your risk of a fatal accident.
  6. Don’t tailgate. Remember not to tailgate seniors driving slowly. Wait for an appropriate place to pass them and accelerate quickly past them.
  7. Encourage elders you know to take a defensive driving course. AAA Mature Operators courses teach seniors about driving in the upper decades, including the foundations of defensive driving that all drivers should be aware of on the road.

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