TRANSPORTATION May 2009
The ability to drive represents independence, self-sufficiency, freedom, and spontaneity in American culture. Loss of driving can lead to isolation and loneliness. Therefore, it is one of the hardest things to let go of. When to stop is a topic for great debate. Many people are able to continue driving through their 70s, 80s and into their 90s. Others need to stop and use alternative transportation due to physical or mental changes.
If you are still driving, you can improve your safety by taking the AARP driver safety course. It can also reduce insurance costs. The class is offered in-person and on-line. It addresses age-related changes, safe driving techniques, and updates you about rules of the road and your vehicle. A similar course is taught by AAA and others.
It is important to determine when it is no longer safe to drive, before having a serious accident that harms others. A 2004 AAA study found that older adults were the highest risk group for accidents after teens. They are also the most likely to be seriously injured or killed. The aging process can affect the ability to drive in many ways, including vision, hearing, mobility, longer reaction time, medication effects, impaired sleep, and cognitive problems such as dementia. Sometimes family, friends or physicians become concerned and recommend that driving stop when they notice these signs.
Many people begin to self-limit driving when they become aware of these issues, choosing to stop driving at night, avoid freeways, rush hour and unfamiliar routes. Sometimes this limiting comes after an accident or close call. If a person will not limit or stop, the doctor can refer a person for a thorough driving evaluation at St. Lawrence Rehabilitation.
If you are concerned about someone’s driving, go for a ride with them as a passenger. Check whether safe practices are being used, such as seatbelts, sunglasses, checking mirrors, using turn signals (and turning off), waiting an adequate length of time before entering a roadway, responding to traffic lights, driving in a manner expected by other drivers (speed, signaling, turning, etc), braking smoothly and appropriately, staying in lane and maintaining steady speed. Can they turn their head far enough to look over a shoulder? Do they have good reflexes and appropriate responses to the unexpected? Can they read road signs? Do they get confused about where they are or where they are going en-route? Is there evidence of recent accidents, dents or scrapes, traffic violations?
There are more transportation options in Princeton than in many local communities for those who do not drive. If you want more information on any of these services, please call PSRC.
· Crosstown – door to door rides in a car within the Borough and Township for people 65+. $3 per ride. To register and buy vouchers, call PSRC.
· Ride Provide – door to door rides around Mercer County within 10 miles of Quakerbridge Mall. Charges vary.
· TRADE – bus rides for people 60+ or with disabilities, no charge for rides to health appointments, nutrition sites, programs or other services.
· Access Link – van transportation for people who are unable to ride a public bus due to a disability. Origin and destination must be within ¾ mi of a bus route.
· Princeton FreeB-new jitney service around the Borough which runs 5-9 am and 5-9 pm. We hope to see expansion of hours and services.
· Tiger Transit – Princeton University circulator busses are free for everyone.
· Public busses and trains. Senior discounts are available.
If you have a friend or family member who no longer drives, encourage them to use these options to maintain their activities and connections in the community. Help arrange rides so they can get to classes or church, or take them with you when you go out. Volunteer to drive for Ride Provide. Support Crosstown and efforts to expand the FreeB service.
Susan W. Hoskins, LCSW