Experts offer mature drivers tips on staying safe behind the wheel

Posted: March 10, 2014

The Winchester Star

Charles Hamner (from left) of Front Royal and Ann and Orville Deming of Frederick County were among those who participated in a mature driving seminar presented by the Winchester Police Department. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Nearly 20 people turned out for Winchester Police Department’s first presentation geared toward senior drivers on Friday night.

Eighteen “older drivers,” which the department defines as 70 and above, were in attendance in the Active Living and Recreation Center in the War Memorial Building at Jim Barnett Park.

Topics included defensive driving, how medications may affect driving, finding the right car for the driver and safe driving behaviors.

The class was led by police community relations/crime prevention specialist Lauren Cummings, driving instructor Sgt. Adam Orndorff and Dr. David Rankin, senior instructor at Summit Point Motorsports Park in Summit Point, W.Va.

“You can actually train your eyes to see more,” Rankin told the class.

If drivers are able to expand their field of vision by even 10 to 15 percent, that could help them avoid an accident, he said.

Eye exercises can be used to expand field of vision.

“High-risk drivers probably should forgo driving,” Rankin said.

Medium-risk drivers could likely benefit from taking a driving rehabilitation class or from modifying their driving habits, such as not driving at night, not driving in the rain, not driving more than 20 miles away from home or not making left turns, Rankin said.

“Left turns are the ones that kill people,” he said. “Watch your friends, watch your family. If you have seen a decline in their driving abilities, point them to the right resources because there’s help available.”

Betty Berry of Winchester said her husband Jim insisted she attend the class with him.

“The things they put up for us to check were things I was already aware of ... such as physical conditions,” she said. “It’s hard for me to turn around behind [me] when I’m backing because I have spinal stenosis, so I try to avoid situations where I have to.”

Berry said sometimes her husband drives faster than she’d like.

“It’s always good to be reminded [about safe-driving habits],” she said.

Since having cataracts removed, Berry has noticed she can read signs much sooner.

“You do have to go check your eyes,” she said.

Paul Musick, 72, is a volunteer, or auxiliary, officer with the Winchester Police Department.

“It’s just a good review of things that you really realize and have had in your mind all these years ... it’s just good to have those things reviewed,” he said. “I’ve slowed down quite a bit, my foot’s not as heavy as it used to be. I’m sure that’s due to reflex time, vision, but I haven’t had an accident or a ticket in 50 years.”

Cummings said she started the class with a personal story.

“My grandparents were in an accident in 2002,” she said. “My grandmother was driving. My grandfather was killed in the accident. It’s something I’m very passionate about in wanting to educate our older population on tips they can use to improve their driving and to make them safer drivers.”

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com