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The state Department of Motor Vehicles has designated this week as “Older Driver Safety Awareness” week, making it a good time to discuss this important issue as we reconnect with family during the holiday season.

Kerry Donnelly, the assistant manager of AAA driver training, has some baseline advice for how older drivers can stay safe on the roads: “They really need to be self-regulating,” she said. “When they’re uncomfortable in a situation, they should ask someone else to drive them. It’s as simple as that. When you’re uncomfortable and nervous, you’re going to make mistakes.”

“An important thing they should be looking at is keeping up-to-date with the latest laws and changes in the laws,” she said. “A good defensive driving class is always recommended.”

Donnelley also highly recommends driver evaluations which you can sign up for at ECMC, Strong Memorial or AAA. It’s a general assessment of driving skills that could give an older driver some refresher advice, but it also could serve as a conversation starter about the future, as difficult as may be.

“It’s a much easier conversation for a stranger to have, and sometimes holds more credibility, than an adult child and an older driver having this discussion," she said.

Donnelly says the evaluation could also proactively encourage the driver to see a doctor and address a medical condition that could keep him or her on the road longer.

Pamela Whitmore, director of the Genesee County Office of the Aging also provides some advice about how to go about having that difficult conversation.

“Oftentimes they’ll see if they observe the vehicle, they may see some dings and dents that have occurred,” she said. “They may also have noticed there’s some changes in the individual’s physical or cognitive functioning as well. We encourage them first to ride with (the older drivers) to kind of see how that is on the road and observe and if there really are some issues, to have a heart-to-heart.”

Donnelly says it’s important for older adults to have a transportation plan if its determined they shouldn’t be out on the roads. Whitmore says there are many transportation alternatives in Genesee County.

“There’s the Batavia Bus Service that does public transportation and a dial-a-ride service and they do a medical service,” Whitmore said. “We are also fortunate enough to have the Marshall-funded CATS bus that can do more assisted transportation for older adults that not only need the ride, but need someone to accompany them out of the home and in and out of the doctor’s office. They can also do some shopping service or personal business.”

The Office for the Aging also offers transportation services to medical appointments in Buffalo and Rochester.

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