Youth, seniors have different driving needs
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, December 5th , 2013
Younger and older drivers have striking differences when it comes to the most basic of driving behaviours.
Younger drivers brake and steer at the same time, while letting the computerized anti-lock braking system do the job of correcting and allowing for skid compensation. Older drivers, on the other hand, were taught to pump the brakes when the threat of a skid was imminent. They will also use the threshold braking technique, where a driver brakes until just before a skid is about to occur and then releases the brake pedal for better steering control.
Younger drivers who drive older cars and trucks often slam on the brakes and skid out of control because they expect the ABS to engage. When it does not do so, they are usually mystified by the behaviour of their vehicle. Older drivers in newer vehicles are often startled by the noise of the ABS while it is working properly. They back off the brake pedal, reverting to a more familiar pumping action or threshold braking technique. This radically reduces the efficiency of the ABS equipment.
These common faults can be corrected through regular practice on whichever vehicle is driven by each group. It took me about three weeks of practice to get familiar with my vehicle’s behaviour after I bought my first driving-school car with ABS.
Younger drivers hold the wheel at 9 o’clock and 3. Older drivers hold it at 10 and 2. The inclusion of airbag safety systems in more modern vehicles has resulted in the lower hand position, lest the airbag (which opens in the blink of an eye) pushes the driver’s arms off the wheel in the higher held 10 and 2 positions. Every driver should now be at 9 and 3, given the majority of airbag-equipped vehicles on our roads.
Both younger and older drivers do not see well at night, but for different reasons. Younger drivers suffer from teenage myopia. Their night vision does not fully mature until somewhere in their early 20s. Their vision is good in well lit places like the Las Vegas Strip and rural starlit nighttime settings. They do not see well in the gaps in normal street lighting in urban areas. These dead spots require more attention for young drivers. Older drivers, on the other hand, have trouble with the glare of oncoming headlights. They need to look away from the light source, usually to the right road shoulder, to get their bearings. Driving in the rain is doubly difficult for seniors. The reflection from the wet pavement at night causes many a senior to swear off driving at night altogether.
Older drivers are very likely able to drive a manual-transmission car or truck. They learned to drive when manual-transmission vehicles vastly outnumbered automatic transmission cars and trucks.
Today, well over 90 per cent of vehicles produced in North America are automatic. The vast majority of younger drivers do not know how to drive a standard-transmission vehicle. The trend toward automatic vehicles is so dramatic that even the trucking industry is now embracing the automatic transmission.
Both younger and older drivers are embracing technology but for different reasons. Backup and blind-spot cameras are a welcomed advancement for seniors who have difficulty with upper torso flexibility. Younger drivers like any technological advancement, especially when it includes video-camera game-type imitation. Sensors in some new vehicles will give a beeper warning to the driver who is getting too close to a hazard in the rear, front or sides.
Despite the age difference, technology and necessity are bringing generations closer together.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.
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