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Staying Safe on the Roadway

There are many factors involved in staying safe on the road, in addition to safe driving.  Making sure we are using our vehicle in the safest possible manner includes making sure:

  • Our car “fits” each of us individually,
  • We are aware of and using the safety features available in our car, and 
  • We are considering all the safety features – there are many new ones - when shopping for a new car. 

Carfit® is a community-based program developed by the AARP, AAA, and the American Occupational Therapy Association to:
  • Help older drivers improve the “fit” of their vehicle;
  • Promote conversations among older adults and their families about driving safety; and
  • Link adults with local resources to help them drive safer longer. 
The program involves a “checkup” where trained volunteers look at 12 items to ensure the driver: 
  • Has a clear view over the steering wheel;
  • Has enough distance from the front airbag;
  • Has proper positioning of seat and mirrors for maximum safety;
  • Is able to use the foot pedals; and
  • Has proper seatbelt fit and is using it safely.
The CarFit®​ website​ has more information about the program and a list of events.​
Wearing a seatbelt properly is the best way to protect yourself during a car crash. It can both save your life and prevent severe injuries.
  • Seatbelts should be worn low and snuggly across the hips, NOT the stomach. 
  • The shoulder belt should come over the collarbone, away from the neck, and cross over the breastbone. 
  • Do NOT wear a seatbelt behind your back; it cannot protect you when worn that way. All drivers and passengers be properly secured with a seatbelt or safety harness by Oregon law. Children must ride in approved child safety seats.​

For maximum safety, a good view of the front, sides and rear of the vehicle is necessary: 
  • Adjust your rear view and side mirrors before driving to make sure you have good visibility. 
  • Also do this when another person has used or serviced the vehicle.
  • Remember…Side mirrors do not get rid of “blind” spots; drivers still need to look over their shoulder before changing lanes. ​
According to AAA’s Distracted Driving webpage, “Visual and mental attention is key to safe driving, yet many in-vehicle technologies can cause drivers to lose sight and focus of the road ahead. Hands-free, voice-command features and other interactive technologies increasingly common in new vehicles may create visual and mental distractions that unintentionally provide motorists with a false sense of security about their safety behind the wheel”. While those tools are helpful, they must be used with great care:
  • Navigation systems, also known as GPS, can be helpful in making sure we get where we’re going, and… they’re still a distraction.  Especially when we’re closely focused on them to find where we’re going.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that you only use these features when you have stopped the car and shifted into park. 
  • Communication systems, both those integrated with the vehicle and cell phones.  When the communication system or even a hands-free device with a cell phone, it is still a distraction.  If you must use the communication system or phone, find a safe place to pull over before you do.  
  • Information and entertainment systems, also known as infotainment systems. According to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study​, “researchers found that the technology created potentially unsafe distractions for all drivers, though this safety risk is more pronounced for older adults  who took longer (4.7-8.6 seconds) to complete tasks, experienced slower response times, and increased visual distractions.” As with navigation and communication systems, find a safe place to pull over before using the system. ​
​Motor Homes

Driving a motor home is like driving a car but involves harder driving conditions, such as:
  • Special maneuvering;
  • Smaller turning radius;
  • Height clearance;
  • Weight restrictions;
  • Fewer parking options;
  • Less visibility; and
  • Longer times to speed up or slow down.
It also involves special safety factors like:
  • Propane use and storage;
  • Tires;
  • Towing;
  • Electrical system;
  • Fire prevention; and
  • Fuel options.
Golf Carts

Golf carts are a popular way for people to get around on and off the golf course, especially in gated or retirement communities. While these carts do not travel at high speeds, they can be dangerous.

When driving a golf cart, follow these simple rules:
  • Make sure you have locked the brake into place, and then put the key in the ignition and turn it to the “on” position (most golf carts are electric so you may not hear it start).
  • Always assume that the cart is running when in the “on” position.
  • Apply the brake while putting the cart in gear to avoid lurching forward or backward (most carts have two gears: “F” for forward and “R” for reverse).
  • To move, gently press on the gas and release the brake until you hear the brake come out of the locked position (some carts start at their full horsepower so expect a jolt).
  • Slow down when making sharp turns because carts can topple over easily.
  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel when making turns because power steering is not a standard feature.
  • Apply the brake and remove the keys when you are not using the cart.
Note: Someday you may no longer qualify for a driver license, but you could still qualify for a disability golf cart permit. This allows you to drive a golf cart or similar device on streets with a speed limit of 25 mph or less.

Other modes of transportation:

Power-assisted devices for mobility such as wheelchairs, scooters, and more recent innovations like the Segway™ Human Transporter, are all ways to assist with mobility. These devices make life easier for some people.

You should follow the rules of the road when using these devices on public roads, just as you would if riding a bicycle. This means going in the same direction as traffic, wearing reflective clothing at night, and making sure to use hand signals if turning. You may also use sidewalks and crosswalks.

According to a AAA, nearly 90 percent of drivers 65 and older are dealing with health issues that affect the ability to drive safely.

AAA's 12-page brochure, Smart Features for Older Drivers, has information to help choose a vehicle that supports adapting to the age-related changes we all experience, in order to remain driving safely as long as possible.  Some of those features include:

  • Airbags – front, side and dual-stage/threshold which adjusts the force of inflation specific to crash severity, distance from the driver and passenger, and weight of the driver.
  • Head restraints and extra padding.
  • Anti-lock brakes which help ensure better steering control during an emergency braking.
  • Dynamic stability control which helps prevent loss of control in a turn, especially when the road is slippery enabling drivers to compensate for slower reaction times.
  • And others specific to particular types of pain or other factors.
AAA, together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), developed Purchasing with Safety in Mind​ which also includes safety features and rollover ratings for many vehicles.