VSV organizes informal driving lessons for seniors
According to the statistics of car accidents, not all the elderly are still fit to drive. Some are afraid of the fast traffic, others are scared to change lanes, and most of them suffer from poor visibility.
For a lot of families, it’s a delicate and tricky question to deal with when mom or dad is getting older: is it still safe to drive? Also, for longer distances? And what about driving in the dark? The question is often dealt with by their family doctor, who advises them to take a driving ability test.
Doctor Judith Urlings of the University Hasselt has developed a new method to check whether older drivers are still capable of driving. A questionnaire and three simple physical tests by the family physician are enough to make the decision.
Still, it remains a delicate question, as most seniors see their cars as their freedom and are not easily willing to give it up. And that’s not only the case in Belgium. Also In The Netherlands, more and more people older than 75 are attached to their car.
That is precisely why the Flemish Foundation for Traffic Science (Vlaamse Stichting Verkeerskunde, VSV) organized the first driving lessons for seniors on Thursday. The lessons took place in Ekeren (Antwerp, Belgium). The main goal of the training is to refresh people’s knowledge of traffic regulations.
Eight senior citizens signed up for the course. Some of them had never had any training at all, as a driver’s license used to be easily available to everyone.
“Seniors usually are safe drivers,” says Werner De Dobbeleer. “They don’t drive too fast, they keep their distance, and they opt for safe maneuvers. Still, they’re more often involved in accidents in complex traffic situations than other drivers. With these lessons, we want to help them to estimate their weaknesses correctly.”
In 2018, 26 people died in an accident with a senior driver; 72 people got injured and 626 slightly wounded. “Some plead for mandatory driving lessons, but it is delicate to draw the line and put an age limit on it,” explains De Dobbeleer. “Their quickness of reaction might be slower, but this is often compensated by anticipating more and by using advanced driving assistance systems.
The most important ‘traps’ for older drivers are complex junctions, changing lanes on the highway, estimating the speed of upcoming traffic, and the physical difficulties to look around or to look back due to arthrosis, rheumatism or muscular diseases.