Keeper of the Keys

By : CONNIE GALLANT April 05, 2020

A few years ago when California law began requiring medical tests for drivers of motor homes over 40' in length and with other states following suit, some older RVers were afraid to be at risk of losing their driving privileges. In fact, an article from cbsnews.com states that the AMA is providing doctors with guidelines for spotting and testing for diminished driving capability in age 60+ patients. Statistics indicate that those age 60 and over are at greater risk of serious injury or death if involved in an accident.

 

As a group, RVers treasure their freedom and independence. Nevertheless, it is ironic that the opportunity to exercise those gifts often doesn't come before the so-called "golden years" when eyesight, hearing, and even motor skills may become diminished by illness, multiple medications, and the natural process of aging. The AMA suggests the following self-test to determine whether you have a safe driving issue that needs to be addressed:

 

    1) Do you have difficulty with or avoid driving at night?

    2) Are you blinded by the glare of oncoming headlights?

    3) Do you have to squint to see road signs or fail to recognize a friend or family member from across the street?

    4) Do passing cars or trucks take you by surprise?

    5) Do you have difficulty looking over your shoulder, moving your leg to change pedals, shifting, or turning the steering wheel?

    6) Does driving make you nervous, confused, or emotionally exhausted?

    7) Do you react slowly in traffic situations?

    8) Are you taking medications that could cause drowsiness?

    9) Do other drivers honk at you?

    10) Are friends and family concerned about your driving?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, there's good news. Positive steps can be taken to avoid losing your license, or worse, causing the death or injury of yourself or another. Hearing and vision problems can be reversed with corrective lenses, hearing aids, and regular visits to your medical specialist. In some cases, surgery may be helpful. Good visibility also depends upon keeping the windshield and headlights clean and in working order.

Motor skills can be improved through regular exercise such as daily walks or planned exercise programs. Proper nutrition is important, too. Or your doctor may recommend physical therapy.

If driving your motor home makes you feel nervous or overwhelmed, you may need to have your doctor monitor the side effects of your medications. Or, if confidence is the problem, play it safe by taking familiar routes and avoiding heavily-trafficked areas, times of day, and bad weather, if possible. Alternatives could include having someone else drive your RV, using public transportation, or walking if you must travel under potentially stressful conditions.

Your doctor can also recommend specific driving rehabilitation courses for older drivers with impaired skills. This can be an important source of increased skill and confidence.

While personal awareness and monitoring is the key to maintaining your independence, it is sometimes helpful to enlist a trusted friend or family member to keep an eye on your driving. Taking action based on their observations could help you keep your driving privileges.

RVers are individuals, not statistics. But we must make a conscious effort not to add to the increasing statistics that show older drivers at high risk for death or injury. No one wants to see legislation that would force drivers of a certain age to hand over their keys. For many RVers, life has only begun at 60 or 65. Be aware and take the necessary steps to insure many more years of safe and enjoyable RVing for yourself and others with whom you share the road.

Remain the keeper of your keys.



CONNIE GALLANT


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