Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to South Jersey

“Comfort Zone”

Imagine yourself planning a trip to visit your children and grandchildren, the excitement is almost overwhelming. Soon after, the excitement turns into anxiety during the seven hour drive. Driving is an important part of our everyday lives and can become increasingly difficult with age. We drive almost every day for various reasons and amounts of time. Whether it is short trips to the grocery store/pharmacy or lengthy road trips to visit family, driving is how it gets done. With the amount of time we spend in vehicles, it is important to be both physically and mentally comfortable behind the wheel. After all, a comfortable driver is a safer driver and safer drivers make it to all those memorable family events.

My name is David Scharfstein and I have been a licensed driving instructor for over twelve years. I manage one of the largest schools in the state of New Jersey and I have worked with people of all ages and backgrounds. Over the years, I have found certain principles to hold true, no matter what the age or experience level of the driver. Comfort and confidence levels need to be high. A big part of improving a drivers confidence comes from improving their overall comfort level. Comfort level falls into two different, yet equally and important categories, mental and physical.

Mental comfort when driving comes from being confident. In order to keep confidence high, it is imperative to drive regularly and be aware of any diminishing skills. Ignoring problem areas will not make them go away. One of the common problems facing seniors is highway driving. The higher speeds and the need to change lanes can rattle any driver. Reflexes and awareness are constantly tested while merging on and off of New Jersey’s crowded roadways. The necessity to check the blind spots during merges and lane changes often gets overlooked. This results in near misses and the occasional accident. However, there are solutions to help keep yourself safe. First and foremost, is to be sure you have your eyes examined on an annual basis. Keeping your prescription lenses up to date is key. After all, if your vision is impaired it will slow your reactions and lead to panic. Another helpful hint would be to increase your field of vision. This can be done by purchasing blind spot mirrors and placing them on your external side mirrors. These small inexpensive mirrors will reduce your blind spots and they are easy to install.

Being physically comfortable is an equally important factor for safety when operating your vehicle. It is important to make the necessary adjustments to your seat so you are comfortable, especially on longer road trips. It may be advantageous to purchase a lumbar support cushion or other pillow in order to prevent back, hip, or leg pain. This has worked wonders for members of my family. If back pain sets in, you may find yourself focusing more on finding a comfortable position instead of the road ahead. Anything that takes your attention away from the road is increasing your chances of being in an accident. Another factor that contributes to your comfort behind the wheel is knowing your limits. Making that seven hour drive without stopping may have been a point of pride for you in the past, but this may no longer be a wise decision. I look no further than my own parents to find an example. They would reach Virginia from Central Jersey in a morning without so much as stopping for a meal. However, stopping along the way will allow you to stretch your legs and back. It will also serve as a chance to clear your head and refocus yourself before continuing on your trip. A good idea is to plan your stops in advance and pick places you want to see or restaurants you would like to try along the way. This will make the trip more enjoyable while keeping you feeling refreshed for driving. Also it is important to choose appropriate clothing for the distance you will be traveling. On longer trips I would recommend looser fitting clothing. This will enhance your comfort while driving. You will feel less restless behind the wheel. If you are making the long trip to visit family you can always change upon arrival. Getting there is more important that what your dressed like when you arrive.

My hopes are that this information will prove helpful. I can not stress enough the importance of being aware of your driving abilities. If you notice that you are encountering increased difficulty driving, then you may wish to contact a licensed driving school and inquire about taking a refresher course. Everything discussed here is designed to make you a more comfortable driver, and thus a far more confident and ultimately safer driver. Now hopefully you feel better about getting out there and safely arriving at your destinations!

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