When is it time to stop driving?
It’s easy to tell your teen to just get out of the car if their friend is driving dangerously. It’s harder to do it, even if you’re far from teenhood and talking to a mature driver, as my man and I recently found out.
He’d just given his 16-year-old restricted driver daughter the standard chat, prompted by yet another teenage passenger fatality. If you’ve got teens, you’ve probably done it yourself.
You know the format; tell them that if they think the driver’s an idiot, or otherwise impaired, to make that judgement, get away from it, ring dad or mum for a no-questions lift.
It’s not easy. Teenage brain development means they’re not well prepared to correctly judge hazards and risk; they have poor emotion control and are particularly prone to give in to peer pressure.
Even a teen that’s otherwise sensible is vulnerable.
But as we discovered, so are we.
I’d come across it before with my father – who stopped on a roundabout to rethink his route. I didn’t say anything. I should have.
This time it was again an older driver, and a confident one. Fine around town, the story changed radically on the open road where it soon became clear her night vision was shot.
We both went quiet. I was in the front, hands on knees, poised to grab the wheel as we veered at times over both sides of the road – ‘oops, thought there was a corner there’ - braked hard just short of rear bumpers and made frequent contact with the rumble strips.
We offered to drive, but our pilot kindly told us to sit back and relax, she adores driving.
Relax? We’d have loved to. Still, our agony ended soon enough when she simply didn’t see one warning sign and the rapidly approaching chevrons – we both shouted CORNERCORNERCORNER and she made it round, sort of, coming to skidding sideways halt on the grass.
Initially keen to carry on, she relinquished the wheel and we took some time to recover. But we didn’t say a word.
Coming home in daylight, again she drove. This time her road positioning was almost faultless, apart from a painful tendency to tailgate to an extreme degree.
Still we didn’t say anything.
She’s a widow who relies on her car to get around, a lovely woman. And we didn’t want to offend her.
Until last month I’d have sent her Safe with Age brochures for the free theory course that aimed to teach older drivers the areas in which they might be vulnerable, and how to address them. It was allied to a subsidised in-car brush-up of driving skills. Fantastic idea; shame funding was cut for it, and it closed overnight.
Now drivers over 75 don’t get retested, and don’t have the Safe with Age safety net to help them stay on the road.
Meanwhile, if you’re a parent of a teen, try to remember it’s not as easy to back out of a risky situation as you’d think.
And if there’s an older driver in your life, take a look at ‘supporting older drivers’, ‘what to look for’, ‘keep moving’ and ‘prolonging your driving career’ on the LTSA website, it may prove helpful.
Us? We’re still working out how to tactfully direct our dear friend to that same website. Let’s hope she pays attention – and doesn’t take offence instead.
Read past Girl TORQUE columns here.
Jacqui Madelin is our expert car reviewer and on the board of the AA Driver Education Foundation.