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How to Keep Mom’s Car Safe for Winter Driving
Frank Blood
/ Categories: Safety

How to Keep Mom’s Car Safe for Winter Driving

As we age, we become more vulnerable to hypothermia – which can result in confusion, loss of balance or death. The elderly are especially at risk during the winter months and that makes it important for caregivers to get their care recipients’ cars ready now so their loved ones get to their destinations without incident. We don’t want our mom or dad to have to get out of her or his car and try to walk in snow, on ice or in the cold – or worse, to have an accident. The hardest part of preparing for winter driving is just taking a little time to do it or remembering to take the car to the mechanic.

November is National Family Caregivers Month and this year’s theme is, “Take Care to Give Care.” As a long-time intensive caregiver, I can’t overemphasize the importance of taking care of yourself first. Since coming out of burnout almost ten years ago, I have been religiously doing the best I can to keep unhealthy stress to a minimum – and that means I am proactive in all areas of my life whenever I’m able.

If you take it upon yourself to prepare your mom’s car for winter, you may avoid a number of stressful situations because:

  • You’ll have the satisfaction and confidence that comes with being responsible
  • There won’t be an accident caused by preventable mechanical failure
  • She won’t be constantly reminding you to have something checked
  • You won’t be worried that she forgot to have something checked
  • She won’t call you at work to pick her up because of car trouble
  • You won’t have to feel bad because you waited too long

 

First Things First

According to a survey by AAA, nearly 90% of seniors are driving a car that doesn’t meet their needs. A safe car means that the person driving it is capable of operating it without difficulty. If the driver is too short to see the front of her hood over the steering wheel or has a problem recognizing objects in the side-view mirrors, it is unsafe no matter how mechanically sound it is. If getting in and out is a problem or if the seat belts don’t fit right, it is not a safe car.

A valuable educational program, created by the American Society on Aging, is CarFit. Its purpose is to help older drivers see how well they fit together with their vehicles. The program was developed in collaboration with AARP, AAA, and the American Occupational Therapy Association. AAA published a very informative downloadable brochure. Everyone should read it.

 

Basic Maintenance

As busy as we are in summer and early fall, it’s easy to forget about the regular care that protects cars from the hazards of engine wear and time. Now is the time to bring the vehicle current with the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule.

Have fluids changed or added as needed

  • Oil – Brake – Anti-freeze – Power steering – Transmission – Freeze resistant fluid for windshield and rear window

Have filters changed as needed

  • Oil – Engine air – Fuel – Transmission – Cabin air – PCV valve and filter

Have brakes inspected

  • Pads – Rotors

Have wiper blades inspected

  • Torn rubber – Failure to completely clean in one swipe – Squeaking

Have tires inspected (including spare)

  • Proper inflation – Tread depth – Unusual tread wear pattern – Valve stem – Replace any tire older than 6 years regardless of condition

Have lights and signals inspected

  • Exterior – Interior

Have hoses inspected

  • Cracks – Loose clamps – Leaks – Too brittle or too spongy feeling

Have the drive belts inspected

  • Frayed surfaces – Cracks (top-side and contact-side)

Have electrical system inspected

  • Battery – Charging

 

The Emergency Kit

I like to keep a couple of doses of each medication in the console – just in case. They aren’t necessarily part of our emergency kit, but have been convenient spares and have been needed on occasion. Be sure to rotate them out every month or two.

While your parents may not be able to use all of the items in the emergency kit, you should still have them available for any Good Samaritan that may stop to help.

  • Phone charger
  • Blankets
  • Spare gloves and hats
  • Snow brush and ice scraper
  • Bag of salt, sand or cat litter
  • Small shovel
  • Flashlight with new batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • Warning triangles
  • First aid kit

 

Remember: While your parent(s) is(are) still able to drive a car safely, keeping them safe depends on three circumstances that work together as one unit:

  • The physical, mental and emotional condition of the person operating the vehicle
  • The interior, exterior and mechanical condition of the vehicle (including its fit for use by the driver)
  • The immediate environment the car is operating in
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