Trailing trailers

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q:

During a recent trip to Florida, we were almost in a horrible wreck when the pickup in front of us, going about 50 miles an hour, swerved and the trailer he was hauling came unattached. The truck landed in the ditch, the trailer kept going and almost hit a car coming in the other direction, and after that oncoming car swerved to avoid it, he overcorrected and almost hit us. I thought it was one of those freak accidents until the state trooper said “it happens more often than you think.” Is this really a prevailing risk?

A:

Yes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since 2008 more than 300 people have died (no figures for injuries are available) because of wrecks caused by improperly connected trailers. A two-chain hookup is required in most states to minimize risk, but some trailer-haulers are lazy or sloppy or both, and tragedies have occurred. I’m glad you were able to avoid one.

Q:

My mother-in-law is 75, and we’re wondering when we should take the keys away. She’s had no accidents we’re aware of, and doesn’t have dementia (which has been the chief reason our friends have had the difficult no-more-driving conversations with their parents). Still, her reflexes are slower and we’re seeking input about what age people shouldn’t drive any more.

A:

There’s no specific age, experts say. We all age differently, a fact that becomes especially obvious when people reach their 60s and 70s and 80s: some have vision, mobility or diminishing-capability issues that may make them high-risk drivers, others have none of those problems.

This is perhaps the most controversial of all the topics that aging advocates and experts must contend with. My local hospital, Penrose-St. Francis, Colorado Springs, has an interesting (and helpful) program called Fitness to Drive. The occupational therapy and rehabilitation experts there assess driving-related skills to help older drivers and their families come to agreement about the right time for the senior to take what they term a “planned retirement from driving.”

They offer these signs (among others) it may be time to stop driving: riding the brake, hitting curbs or having other problems parking, scrapes or dents in the car, difficulty turning around to back up the car.

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email Sharon@ctwfeatures.com.