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By Rhonda Oaks

The weekend trip to Nashville with my mom and sister was great until we sat on the tarmac for five hours waiting out storms there and in Houston. My husband was riding with my dad to pick us up at the airport. It would be the only time he ever rode in a vehicle with my dad driving. He said he saw his life flash before his eyes several times during the 120-mile trip.

My dad was a good driver. He had only one crash in his life to my knowledge. He was retired when it happened, and he was at fault when he pulled out in front of another vehicle. Dad never slowly stopped at a signal or a stop sign. No, he stopped on a dime. If the brakes didn’t almost lock up, he didn’t think he was hitting them hard enough. The family still laughs when we get together, and the subject of his driving comes up. We all experienced it. He drove almost until the day he died and never changed those driving habits.

I thought about that the other day when the Lufkin District held an event for senior drivers in Lufkin. What a great idea! Teach seniors how to drive. But my smug attitude changed when I realized they know how to drive. Most of them know how to drive better than we do. They have already experienced everything that could happen on a roadway. From flats before there was roadside assistance to a break-down that required mechanical skills when there was no mechanic around. The shoulder of the road became a spot to pull over for a little nap during a long trip and a wide spot off the road became a place where the picnic lunch came out for the family on vacation. Driving just seemed to be a little safer back then.

Somehow my dad made it safely through his driving years. But there were things he never had to worry about. Today’s roadways present dangerous challenges to senior drivers. Things like distracted drivers, drunk drivers, and those under the influence of drugs. Seniors also face what we think of as normal - increased roadway congestion, longer commute distances and faster speeds. And for me, I hate those big city “spaghetti bowls” that seem to rise into the clouds before we get over them.

Our seniors grew up not having to worry about drivers who were looking at their phones instead of the road. Today’s drivers pose a threat to most seniors, along with modern technology. That’s where CarFit comes in.

There are many innovative technologies on a vehicle today that seniors are unaware of. Heck, I’m not aware of some of them. But once someone demonstrates them, the driving experience becomes more enjoyable and safer.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that by 2030, there will be about sixty million drivers over the age of 65. That means that one in four people will be older drivers. Our Traffic Safety Division realizes there is an opportunity now to prepare all of us aging drivers for the time we will fit into the elderly driving category, and to educate those who are already there and trying to safely maneuver the roadways.

In addition to the CarFit event held recently, the Lufkin District will begin to accept appointments to check the fit of the vehicle for mature drivers, point out safety features, and demonstrate options on their vehicles designed to keep them safe.

We hope you call and make that appointment for yourself or for your parents who are still driving. Call 936-634-4433, or contact Melissa McKnight, traffic safety specialist, at (936) 633-4303 and request a senior car fit check. It’s free, it’s quick and it’s easy. We offer this with the goal of keeping you safe on the roadway. That, and the hope that stopping on a dime will never happen to you or your loved ones.

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