Welcome to Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

Dear Street Smarts, Q: There is an all too common situation where a driver's brain thinks the right foot is on the brake pedal, but the foot is actually on the gas pedal. Typically the drivers in these cases claim that their brakes failed, but a lack of brakes does not create sudden acceleration, which is usually witnessed by others. Stiffness, sore muscles, etc., can play a part. If you have these conditions, be more alert to 'Brain vs Foot' potential. It happened to me about 18 years ago, but luckily I had taken flying lessons while in college. My flight instructor was constantly reminding me that if the aircraft is not doing what you think it should be doing, let go and get off all controls for an instant. The plane -- and the car -- will 'fly' itself for that period and then you can reinstall yourself into the controls. Over the years, I have reminded myself of this wisdom, along with what to do if a tire blows out or the front wheels go into skid mode and direction control is lost: Get off the brakes! These are all driver training items that cannot be practiced, except in one's head. But the mental practice can pay off, as in my case. I did not plow through the side of the Soquel post office building but got my right foot where it belonged just in time. Perhaps driving simulators will become the norm and practicing this can be included. Meanwhile, keep thinking. Don Burklo, Soquel A: Thank you, Don, for your insights and experience with this topic. Drivers and airplane pilots, take heed. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week This week, Dec. 2-6, is Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. Designated by the American Occupation Therapy Association, the special week occurs in December because families are gathering together for the holidays, providing the opportunity to discuss the driving skills of an older relative. “This is often a difficult discussion to have with a person because many older drivers consider driving a form of independence,” said Joe Farrow, CHP commissioner. “However, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your loved ones and those around them.” In 2011, more than 23,000 drivers over the age of 65 involved in traffic collisions, according to CHP data. Among those, nearly 400 were killed and more than 22,000 suffered injuries. In more than 50 percent of those cases, senior drivers were found at fault. To help curb those numbers, the CHP, armed with a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, will offer a two hour course, called "Age Well, Drive Smart.” Through this program, seniors can brush up on rules of the road, fine tune their driving skills and learn ways aging impacts driving abilities, as well as ways to adjust to them. View videos teaching senior driving safety at http://www.chp.ca.gov/community/octs_v.html. For information about the CHP's Age Well, Drive Smart program, call Officer Brad Sadek at 662-0511.
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