Excerpt: 'The Driving Dilemma'

Hesitating over right-of-way decisions. This may signal an important problem with cognitive processing speed.

Diffi culty keeping the car in the proper lane. A driver who straddles lanes, drifts into lanes without realizing it, or changes lanes without signaling could have a vision or movement problem.

GREEN SIGNALS OF RISK

Trouble seeing over the steering wheel. The driver's eye level should be between the top of the wheel and the level of the rear-view mirror, approximately 10 inches away from the air bag. Short drivers should use a seat cushion or pillow to achieve the correct position.

Diffi culty looking back over one's shoulder. Commonly caused by neck stiffness or pain, this can cause real problems. See a driver rehabilitation specialist to fi nd out if getting the car fi tted for adaptive mirrors will help, and consult with a healthcare provider to see if there are treatments that can improve fl exibility and range of motion.

Trouble physically moving the steering wheel or looking out mirrors. Again, while relatively minor, these signal problems with movement. Talk to a physician about exercises that may help the driver maintain the strength and fl exibility required to operate a vehicle. Correcting such problems and improving fi tness may help avoid more serious problems down the road.

Diffi culty getting in or out of the vehicle. Improving your total fi tness may help improve this. In addition, consider putting something slick, such as a plastic trash bag or a silk scarf over the seat to make it easier to slide in and out of the car.

The Consequences of Ignoring Warning Signs: a Case Study It seems that you only have to open the newspaper to fi nd an example of an older driver having problems. The consequences of ignoring the kind of risk signals just described range from minor to catastrophic. Unfortunately, catastrophic results do happen. I present the case study below not to sensationalize the issue, but to hammer home the importance of paying attention to even minor warning signs. I reviewed dozens of local and national news accounts, the National Transportation Safety Board reports, and data released from the Santa Monica Police Department to tell the following story, using three perspectives, that of the driver, witnesses, and investigative report.

GEORGE

It was an ordinary day. Despite hip replacements, chronic leg pain, and arthritis, George still got around pretty well with a cane and regularly walked around the neighborhood for exercise. He and his wife lived in a modest, comfortable home and were members of a supportive church. After breakfast he ran a few errands before it got too hot -- the week before temperatures had hovered near 100 degrees. He was home for lunch, fi nished writing a letter, and then drove to the post offi ce. It was a Wednesday afternoon, so traffi c wasn't bad. He pulled up to the mailbox in the parking lot, slid across the seat, and dropped the letter into the box. Sliding back to the driver's seat, he put the car back in gear and headed out of the post offi ce parking lot for home. His route home would take him by the popular Santa Monica farmer's market.

THE FARMERS' MARKET

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