Spending time on the road means exposing yourself to all kinds of drivers. As I mentioned last week, there is the person who sees you and wants to “teach you a lesson”. They do so by coming insanely close as they pass. There are distracted drivers. One I saw today was watching a comedian’s routine while driving to work. As if there weren’t enough bad drivers already, these drivers might hit you and not even know it. Then there are elderly drivers.
Statistically drivers over 65 are not the most dangerous age group on the road. That being said, it is important to note that aging has a significant impact on how people drive. Reaction time increases, vision begins to decline, as does hearing. Just last week an elderly driver plowed into a group of local riders. So what can cyclists do to avoid a collision with an elderly driver?
While I bring up rider visibility quite a bit, there’s a good reason why. Most people aren’t trying to hit you. I’ve found that the majority of drivers will gladly give you room if they are aware of your presence. Even the distracted driver constantly looking at their phone will notice someone with eye piercingly bright LEDs flashing brightly from a distance.
The reality is that there are more people on the road riding bikes than ever. Many elderly drivers grew up in a time where people riding bikes on the road wasn’t really a thing. Talk with any of the well aged road veterans in your local riding scene and they will tell you, there are simply more people on bikes these days. This means many older drivers never developed habits such as looking out for cyclists. It’s difficult to see something you are not looking for. This is why riding with lights at all times is a good practice.
As a music aficionado, I rode with earbuds for the first few years of my road riding adventures. One day I decided against it, as I had a couple of close calls with cars coming up behind me. Ever since, I’ve noticed I’m far more aware of approaching vehicles.
This is obviously no surefire way of avoiding being run down. However, it has saved me more than a handful of times. I’ve heard an approaching vehicle and moved to the edge of the road to have an unaware diver pass shockingly close. It’s never fun, but always beats the alternative.
There are all kinds of terrible drivers out there. The elderly are only a subset, but one to be cautious of. I’ve had my fair share of close calls where I notice an elderly driver behind the wheel and say to myself, “they didn’t even know I was there.” It’s an unfortunate side effect of aging that can effect the lives of riders and drivers alike. Stay safe out there. Be aware, and as always, keep the rubber side down!