If you’re feeling worried about getting in the driving seat, you’re not alone. Many drivers are expressing a concern returning to driving after cocooning during the COVID-19 lockdown. There is also a level of nervousness among drivers changing from the 2km and 5km limits to 20km on June 8th.
“Driving gives each one of us the freedom to travel when and where you want. As we get older our ability to drive becomes even more important to our sense of independence. Having a car can make it easier to get to the shops or appointments, and to keep in touch with friends and family. Whether it’s getting behind the wheel at night, driving in heavy rain, or tackling a busy road you’re not familiar with, driving can be stressful,” stated Noel Gibbons the Road Safety Officer of Mayo County Council.
He is being informed by driving instructors that many drivers they have spoken with are feeling anxious and nervous about driving on busy road again. For this reason both Noel and Age Friendly Co Ordinator, Maura Murphy in Mayo County Council have compiled some simple but worthwhile advice.
This guide covers some items that may help you feel that bit safer and more confident when driving; the alternatives available if you do decide to stop driving in the future. There are many reasons why one of us may lose a certain amount of confidence on the roads, e.g. taking an extended break due to COVID-19 restrictions or a long illness, heavy traffic, we may have been involved in an accident at some point, or simply just getting older.
There are many checks and precautions you can carry out to reassure yourself while driving: Practice, practice, practice
That old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ is very true. Your confidence will only increase the more you get out on the road, for example start by driving around local streets at first and giving yourself time to familiarise yourself with location. Make a point of getting in the car every day, even if you don’t need to particularly go anywhere, and drive for 10-15 minutes. Try to include roundabouts and somewhere to park along the route to build up confidence.
You should also go out at different times of the day to get a feel for how the roads change – so this could be an early morning drive one day, a lunchtime route the next and an evening drive on another. This can also help when it comes to driving in different light and even weather.
Motorways are safer than many people realise. As they’re well-designed and engineered, they’re much safer than single carriageway roads.
Driving on motorways doesn’t need to be avoided and “with the right instruction and advice, plenty of care and practice, it is possible to overcome motorway confidence issues,”
Busy cities or unknown roads
If you’re driving somewhere for the first time, fear of getting lost may be very real, especially if it’s busy. “Give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you need to be so that you can take your time. If it’s estimated it takes an hour to get from A to B, allow 90 mins so you won’t get stressed in heavy traffic,” Noel advises.
Driving at night
Another pinch point for nervous drivers can be driving at night but, the more you practise doing this, the easier it will become. “A good way to ensure that you feel confident when driving in the dark is to check, before you leave, that all your lights are working, and your windows and mirrors are clean,” Mr Gerry Butler ADI driving instructor advises. “This will maximise your visibility and help you feel more confident on the road.”
Good Eyesight is essential for safe driving, and there is a legal requirement in Ireland for drivers to meet a minimum standard of vision.
Regular eye examinations are also important for drivers in the older age groups. Many changes that occur in the eye which are age related can compromise an individual’s ability to drive. Just as in the younger age group, prescription changes can also occur quite rapidly. Other driving conditions such as glare are also more likely to adversely affect an older driver.
What should I do to make sure that I can see as well as possible when driving? at night?
Make sure that your eyes are examined regularly
Always wear an up-to-date pair of distance spectacles or contact lenses
Keep a spare pair in the car if possible
Do not use tinted lenses but have them anti-reflection coated if necessary
Don’t forget to keep the windscreen clean, inside and out, at all times
Make sure your car’s lighting is working properly
Finally, if in doubt about the fitness of your vision for driving at night, seek your optometrist’s advice. Information produced by the College of Optometrists in conjunction with the Association of Optometrists