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I Used to Be Scared of Driving But Am Now Wising Up!

By Renee Langmuir November 23, 2023 Lifestyle

I can’t think of any other physical activity in life which regularly pairs teenagers with the elderly other than driving. Every day, on superhighways and rural roads alike, cohorts of every age demographic follow, pass, and turn, without regard to who is behind the wheel of the vehicle ahead, behind or to the side.

The Origin of My Fears

I am a happy, healthy, fit, 71-year-old retiree, who has gladly left behind a one-hour commute each way into the city of Philadelphia. I now live in a semi-rural area, where, one might suppose, driving would not be an issue – but it is!

The years spent listening to endless audio books behind the wheel and always feeling like my life was wasting away, have not relinquished their hold on me. Another enduring event occurred a few years ago when my husband was a patient in a city hospital. Daily trips down a long, narrow, numbered street off Route I-95 with its bicyclists, darting street-crossers, and the “stop-sign-oblivious” vehicles at every corner inflated my driving anxieties.

I tell my friends and family that I do not fear illness as my eventual cause of death. I fear a giant black SUV or luxury 4×4 truck crashing into the back of my little, white, energy-efficient Subaru Impreza.

How I Cope

My distaste for driving plays out in taking “the long way” to the city, if I must go. This involves avoiding I-95, and going through the interminable suburban ring-neighborhoods of Philadelphia. My fears also transfer to my husband when he is driving on freeways, especially the New Jersey Turnpike approaching New York City.

I endure those rides with eyes shut tight. However, he’s not such a “big shot” himself, because it is me who must drive across bridges when we travel to New Jersey, because of his new fear.

The Seminal Moment

We are all familiar with stories of taking the keys away from mom or dad. I was in the same situation myself, just a few years ago. No one is asking for my car keys. But there was one life changing event, which has made me re-examine my driving, I’m happy to say!

To get to our home, one must get in the left lane of a highway to access the country road adjacent to our development. One evening at dusk, I was driving home from a restaurant, and literally went about 25 feet past the road as I was making the left turn. Befuddled as to where that country road went, I stopped, and fell prey to the oncoming cars, turning just in time. Something had to be done.

What Do the Experts Say?

Most of the emphasis on senior drivers is with the elderly and the infirmed. Those with too many crashes, near misses and dents on their vehicles will certainly need to endure “the talk” with their families.

However, anyone over the age of 65 should do some reflection. Most of my friends in this age range would heartily agree that they don’t like to drive at night or drive fast on a highway.

The National Institute on Aging lists many declining physical abilities which can contribute to impaired driving: stiff joints and muscles, which make it hard to turn the head; decreased peripheral vision which affects reading road signs; impaired hearing, preventing reaction to horns and sirens; slower reaction time; and possible cognitive decline.

Help Is on the Way

To save my marriage, and to change my behavior, I enrolled in the AARP Smart Driver Course. For a fee of $26.95 for AARP members, one can enroll in an on-line course which results in a helpful reduction in the yearly auto insurance premium. There is only one catch – the course is 8 hours long, and there is no way to speed up the slides. All have a timer at the bottom of the screen, so you can’t press “return” until the allotted time has passed.

At first, I thought I would not be able to endure the slow pace of the content. But I soon found that there was valuable information that was new to me in the areas of safe driving strategies, physical issues related to driving, reduction of distraction, and new technology in later model cars, such as lane departure, collision warnings, and blind spot alerts.

I think “being forced” to stay with the content because of the timer makes the information stick. I’m sure a venerable institution such as AARP created this course with the help of neuroscientists.

Although I completed the course many months ago, I feel incredibly more confident in my driving. I am not embarrassed to take the “long way” to avoid highways, as it was one of the suggestions. I pull over to set up a podcast on a long drive, rather than toggle between my phone and the road. And, I keep eating and drinking to a minimum, and give tractor trailers double the distance I used to give, when I pass.

Suggestions to Senior Drivers

The NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, offers several suggestions to senior drivers, which align well with the AARP Smart Driver course. It is important to stay physically active, as driving requires a lot of movement and highly functioning sensory input. If you have a newer car, take time to learn how to use the unfamiliar technology.

Avoid busy traffic times and poor weather when traveling. Always give yourself more time than you need. Avoid the distractions of talking, eating and listening to the radio or internet when driving in challenging conditions.

This organization also offers a Self-Assessment, if one is not sure there is an issue that needs addressing. The American Occupation Therapy Association offers in-person assessments by driving habilitation specialists for those with more significant impairments.

I can’t say that the Black SUVs and 4x4s don’t scare me anymore, but I’m less likely to be impacted if I’m minding my own business in the right-hand lane, without a cup of tea in my hand during daytime hours!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you a driver? Have you noticed any difficulties or fears creeping in lately? What are you doing about them? Would you consider taking a refreshing course?

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I lived in the Philippines for 16 years and there was a cute little town that no one was allowed to own a car. the only person allowed to own a car was the
the mayor. The other people rode bikes or walked.


Thank you Margaret and Renee for this information.
I gave up my driving for the same reason: Crazy driver around me. Just like you said, passing without warning, I guess some don’t know what a stop sign is for. Lol.
My scare came when I had green light and the guy facing me thought he had a green arrow and started to turn in front of me.
Also we had a man that drove on the sidewalk. When questioned he said
that is what they did in his country when traffic was heavy! The officer said “Well, we don’t do that in this country.”
My husband is a share driver so he knows all the tricks in the book. Lol.
He does our driving. I tease him about paying him for taking me somewhere. Lol.
Thanks again for sharing this post.
Yes, I will check on that course.


I can heartily recommend moving to an environment where you needn’t drive or even own a car. There’s a lot of freedom in taking public transportation, bicycling and walking. Not to mention the health benefits of cycling and walking.


I’d love to move to an environment like this! Is there a way to find these places?


Hmm, Renee doesn’t seem to have written on this topic, but Sixty & Me has a lot of resources for deciding where to live. I’ve found author Carol Marak helpful, especially her book. Also there is WalkScore on the internet and YouTube has several creators who talk about walkable cities.

I live in an old, unpopular US Rust Belt city. Downtown, where I live, has a WalkScore of 93. Housing is relatively affordable; apartments in my condo building are listing $50k – 90k. I feel safe enough, cost of living is reasonable, cultural amenities & public transportation are quite good, medical care is accessible & world-class. Midwestern US has several cities considered past their heyday that offer similar situations.


I love to drive but my current fears are not in my abilities but the ones that I share the road with. I drive sanely and without distraction and have a bit of a heavy foot. I stay in one of the two right lanes on highways but people are speeding past me 20+ miles over the speed limit and cut across lanes without using turn signals. Driving on these highways simply cause me anxiety. People just don’t follow the rules of the road.


That’s very true Kim, I might be a bit slower than some on the road would like but I’ve nursed RTA victims and I truly feel if those who seemingly ignore the rules of the road could see even the mildest of what I’ve seen or had to tell a parent sorry but….. their driving would improve dramatically.
One of the things that irritate me is when people wave their hands around,I was waiting to turn right and a chap in the on coming car was slowing down and waving his hands around I thought he was letting me turn I stopped at the last moment he wasn’t letting me turn he was giving instructions to his passenger he abused me something shocking but I gave him as good as I got and I left him in no doubt that his hands should be on the wheel at all times


I gave up my own keys to a health scare a few years back and learned to ride the bus everywhere, especially downtown and the beach. I’m driving again, even bought a new bright yellow car so they see me, but I am not afraid of the time I can’t or don’t want to drive anymore.

The Author

Renee Langmuir was an educator for 34 years in public schools and at the university level. After an unplanned retirement, Renee chronicled her transition in a series of personal essays on the website, Her writing has appeared on the websites Agebuzz, Next Avenue, Forbes and in The AARP Ethel Newsletter.

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