KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Pennsylvania has nearly two million drivers 65 or older on the road. Keeping senior drivers safe is vital to maintaining their independence behind the wheel. There are programs aimed at educating seniors on the latest rules of the road and how to compensate for some physical limitations.
78-year-old driver Frank Warunek remembers his very first car as a teenager: a 1949 Ford. “Hard top. Beautiful. Hey, stick shift, all that. Yeah.” While cars have changed some seven decades later, the need for safety hasn’t. “People need to be reminded or be refreshed on how to drive in this upcoming weather,” he said.
AAA Mid-Atlantic Traffic Safety Community Educator Andreea Higdon visited Kingston Active Adult Center on Tuesday with a focus on winter driving safety. It’s part of her overall objective to help seniors reduce their risk on the road. “We tell them where their mirrors should be. We tell them how far they should be from the steering wheel to be at a safe distance because of that air bag that comes out,” she said.
Another risk is not realizing how some of the newer automobile technology works. 68-year-old driver Sarah Derhammer raised concerns about how her seat belt make her feel vulnerable in her late model SUV. “I tried pulling it and they say oh it will lock. Well, sometimes it don’t (sic) lock.” She had Ms. Higdon show her what she needed to do for her seat belt to do its job properly. The seat belt had an adjustment that Ms. Derhammer didn’t realize.
While some of the newer technology can be confusing there is also newer technology that helps older drivers maintain their independence and stay on the road. Adaptive items like pedal extenders and hand controls can enhance the ability of older drivers. Seniors like Ms. Derhammer appreciate the presentation to help them steer clear of danger. “It’s very valuable. Very, very valuable,” she said.
AAA Mid-Atlantic sponsors a free program called Carfit to check how well older drivers’ personal vehicles fit them. Also, many automobile insurance companies offer seniors discounts if they complete a driver’s refresher course.