Hooniverse Asks: Which of your driving skills has declined with age?

Growing up in Boston, I prided myself on being able to park any vehicle into the tightest spots. And I could do so quickly and cleanly. Need to parallel park a box truck on a busy street? I was your guy. Lately, however, I feel like I can barely stay between the lines of a strip mall parking lot. Sure, the 2019 GMC Sierra I’m driving this week is large and I can barely locate the wheel position because of the massive fenders and hood, but I used to be better than this. I’m straddling lines, angled in the spot, and it keeps on happening.

I don’t blame the truck… I blame myself.

Which of your driving skills has declined as you’ve gotten on in age?

65 Comments

  1. The ability to drive double or triple the speed limit on public roads. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been over 100 mph inside city limits.

    1. I’m still good there… so far.

      When I had the Transit recently, (full size van, not the connect) I was dancing through traffic on the 405/5 freeways. That van kicked serious ass. I wasn’t exceeding 100, but I was a few ticks over the speed limit certainly, haha.

    2. I was a passenger in a car doing 10x the limit many moons ago. Mind you the limit was just 10km/h for after-hours delivery vehicles in a pedestrian zone, which was deserted at about 2am. That wasn’t the most stupid thing that driver did that night either…

      Massive enforcement and penalties have dealt with big speed otherwise.

  2. I’m 45 and I feel like my reflexes and attention to the road and pedestrians are the same as they ever were. But what’s slipping is my night vision. It hasn’t reached the point that I don’t want to drive at night. But night driving is becoming less pleasant. By the time I’m 55, I can see myself actively avoiding night driving.

    1. I’m 46, same here. I remember riding with my mother when I was a child and she was in her 40s and she complained she couldn’t see at night. I had no idea what she meant until recently. Driving at night in the rain now sucks.

    2. 32 and I’d prefer to avoid night driving as well – I’m not sure how much is eroding vision, and how much is some combination of headlights getting brighter/higher (with everyone moving to crossovers). It’s especially concerning since I mostly drive in urban areas, and during winter (5PM darkness and everyone bundled up in dark coats) pedestrians are getting too close to invisible for my comfort.

      1. That’s the real problem. Inconsiderate people with driving + fog lights, the noticeably “sharper” lights of BMW and Tesla EVs especially, and lots of folks with poorly adjusted lights…let’s say I notice them, too.

    3. I’m also 45, and I feel the same way. My skills have either plateaued or improved since my 20s, but my night vision is noticeably compromised (and despite wearing lenses to correct it, my astigmatism doesn’t help).

    1. I’m 49, and I’m a lot less fearless. I’ll take the scenic but slow back road to my brother’s house instead of the Interstate (which is more miles, but you can go a lot faster… may or may not get you there quicker). My sister, who is 4 years older than I, still opts for the Interstate.

    1. They say you’re supposed to acquire the wisdom to suffer fools as you get older, but actually each time the question, “I get where I’m going without being a shithead, why can’t you?” goes unanswered the fuse gets a little shorter.

    2. Every day commuting back and forth to work I see multiple examples of why we deserve our autonomous future.

  3. I don’t know if I’d classify it as a decline, but instead maybe a change – backing up. Especially a trailer.

    Growing up I’d never bother backing up with the mirrors, I’d just turn my head and visually watch what I was doing.
    Now, my neck’s a little (lot) stiffer, and it’s just a heckuva lot easier to just use the mirrors.

  4. “Multitasking” as in changing the radio station or lighting a cigarette. I used to be able to do both on a narrow two-lane and not cross any lines. Now it seems any time I even glance down at the console for a second I look up and find myself in the oncoming.

    In my defense, I’ve spent a lot more time on motorcycles and in shitbox IH Scouts, both of which require absolute focus to keep me out of trouble. I think I’ve just rewired to that mode.

    Lately, though, I’ve been working on doing the Macarena on the motorcycle, during long decellerations or downhills, so there’s that.

      1. Reminds me…I think I’ve gotten a lot better at knee steering. It probably has something to do with not having a manual transmission on anything currently running.

    1. Do/did you roll (the cigarette) while driving? I watched a guy doing it on the autobahn during a shared ride and it never felt unsafe.

      1. Grandpa could do that. I can’t roll a cigarette and I’ve been smoking since Ronald Reagan’s first term.

  5. I will be 70 years old next month and never, ever thought I’d not want to drive. I have a tough time backing up and love the back up camera on my 2016 Scion IA which only has 16,000 miles, so you know I don’t drive much. My son and his family live in an area that when I was a kid, was horse ranches and dairy farms. One of roads near them was where I got my mom’s new 1965 Oldsmobile Delta 88 up to 100 MPH, and ever since I told my grandson that story, he says he can’t wait to go that fast. I have to get ready and dressed soon to return something I bought as a Christmas gift and need an exchange. At least the traffic won’t be as bad.

  6. I’m 36 and getting more and more sloppy, careless. Honestly, just today I pulled out of a parking lot being really tired after work, and I touched…let’s say something solid and highly visible. I was visiting our hands-on-guys and I just hope nobody heard the sound of it – or my reputation as a garbage-can-kicking-automobilist solidifies into the ridiculous. So I had to wash my dirty car upon coming home and put some primer on the tiny scratch, that left a blueberry-sized spot of bare metal. Sigh.

    I also recognize Jeff’s words above – before I could handbrake-slide into a parking spot and it was magically perfect. Today I have to focus quite hard, but…see above. Having to reverse in and out of parking spots is still quite new to me and I get super embarrassed doing that.

    1. I read this yesterday, and I think it jinxed me. I backed into my neighbor’s trash can this morning.

  7. My ability to beat the tar out of a vehicle despite the sounds and sensations of existing and imminent mechanical failure is in rapid decline. My cars see a lot more pit time than they once did.

  8. 51 here…and being able to see clearly while night driving is now challenging. My eyes need more time to adjust.

    As far as my what really matters to me, which is working on cars, I have found age (and girth) have made working under cars, which is where much of the action is, far less fun these days. As such, I am seriously considering a hoist for my garage. What took me fours hours this past weekend could have been accomplished in an hour if the car was up in the air…and I would not have been so stiff the next morning….!

        1. How many guys come driving up thinking, “there’s a spot right next to that black truck”, only to see the BMW hiding as they get close? I had a BMW 1-series in Houston and it was always hiding behind some big SUV. Couldn’t find it til I was on top of it with my arms full of groceries.

      1. 1. Especially with long wheelbases, it’s easier to put the non-steering axle into the space first and the steering axle last. It gives more room to make adjustments. Long trucks have big turning diameters that aren’t well accommodated when turning nose first into a 20-foot space from 90 degrees. Backing in allows more control, which is especially important when other vehicles occupy the adjacent spaces. Keep in mind that unless you are someplace like Home Depot or the rodeo, the width of the aisle is probably less than the length of the truck.

        2. In a truck with an 8 foot bed and a two foot second row of cab, and perhaps another foot of rear bumper and trailer hitch, backing out of the space means you’ve stuck 11 feet of your truck into the traffic aisle before you can see around whatever is parked next to you. And you still have the steering–the-wrong-end issue that might mean a few more times back and forward to be clear of the space. Pulling out of the space means you don’t have to move as far before you can see.

        3. When you back into a space, most pedestrians notice the truck moving and give it room. When a truck backs out of the space, people might walk right behind it, assuming you are sitting in it doing paperwork or making a phone call. When you put it into reverse, you might not have noticed that six year old running to Mom’s car–he’s shorter than the top of the tailgate.

      2. My longbed C1500 had 3 feet of rear overhang and only 1-1/2 feet of front overhang, so I backed into spots to keep from protruding into the lane.

    1. I’ve discovered that I do this more often with cars that have an angled feature line/crease on the hood. I line up more with that than I do with true forward. When I back into the garage I’ve started opening the door and lining up the rocker with the wall.

      My OCD may have more of a grip on me than I’d like to admit.

      1. It’s ok if it’s just your behavior…if you start criticizing the spouse for not doing it your way, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate that grip.

        1. Ha! No way am I that brave. I’ll just quietly get the jack out an move hers when she’s not looking.

  9. For reasons unrelated to my age (64), I do not currently own a car and the possibility of buying one is remote. I’ve kept my drivers license active, however, just in case. Speaking of age-related driving issues, this happened in central Florida earlier this year…

    “A 99-year-old man who killed two Treasure Coast teenagers in a head-on crash by driving his RV at night without headlights on the wrong side of a Florida highway recently passed a re-examination test in his home state of Michigan that allowed him to keep his driver’s license. Walter Roney of Dearborn, Michigan passed that test Jan. 8, 29 days before Tuesday night’s crash in Fort Pierce that killed Santia Feketa, 18, and Britney Poindexter, 17. The best friends were on their way to a skating rink. The teen girls were killed in the accident in Fort Pierce after the 99-year-old man was driving on the wrong side of the road because his headlights were not working, says a release by FHP.”

      1. More like Hell on earth, if Florida Man is truly as common as he seems.

        Plus, the utter void of engaging driving to be had in that state.

  10. I’m (gulp) in my early 60s and feel like I’m still relatively competent behind the wheel. I’ve compensated for possibly slower reaction times by driving a bit more conservatively, allowing more space, etc. Where I do notice a change is in backing. I’m with GTXcellent in that an old injury makes it harder to turn around and look, but I think there are other factors involved. Can’t parallel park worth shit any more. My 2017 Bolt has a great backup camera as well as a 360° view, and I find that backing is much easier if I go with what the cameras show. Or it would be, if I would just trust them and not second guess the view they provide. But 40+ years of habit is hard to break.

  11. I’m less focused and more tired, stressed when commuting, independent of means of transportation: I missed my bus stop last week… It’s probably more of a phase-in-life thing, since my parking skills have never been better (we have a van now, 18ft with no rear camera is good practice).

  12. I’m in my early 60’s and you can add me to those who don’t like night driving much. I retired at 55 and I’ve noticed that generally speaking I drive less aggressively* now days. For example, I had a commute of 19 miles each way – mostly expressway and against the tide of traffic- and upon checking my average speed on my car’s computer over a week, I found I had an average speed for the week of 43 mph :-0. Now it’s about 23 mph. I suffer fools better now than I used to, but mostly avoid them by only driving around while everyone else is working.

    *I still get a little Red Mist going in the old Alfa Spider when the weather is nice, running to the redline in every gear and squealing through the curves, but by today’s standards the Spider isn’t very fast.

    Looking forward, I am very glad to be in an area where between Amazon Prime, grocery delivery and Uber, and I’m hoping I should be tolerably okay when the day comes where driving becomes stupid for me.

    Now get off my hood.

  13. I’m 53 and can parallel park better than ever, although now that I live in the city, well, practice makes perfect. I never ever parallel parked growing up in the Houston suburbs. I failed that part of the driving test miserably. Now there are some new ‘urban’ type developments in The Woodlands, for example, where you will actually parallel park, but not back in the day. Also, I back in when parking far more now than ever, parking as I do in a parking garage both at home and at work. I’m almost always slightly askew for some reason. I blame small mirrors. It is getting harder to crank the ol’ neck around, that’s a fact.

    Other than that, my driving style pretty much remains the same as it’s been for the past 15-20 years; just get me there safely, comfortably and efficiently, please.

    1. For a couple years, I lived at a place with no onsite parking, so I had gotten real good at parallel parking. I’m still fine, but it’s not reflex like it used to be

  14. My night vision was awful before I had cataract surgery. My night vision is way better but the artificial lenes tanked my accommodation since they can’t change focus, like a fixed lens camera. So it’s hard to tell at night how far away stop lights are. Which eans I might be slowing down way ahead of where I should be. Plus driving is more stressful and phisically tiring because I feel that I have to concentrate harder to avoid distracted drivers crossing the yellow line.

  15. At a couple of big-box stores I frequent with 90-degree spots (no concrete bumpers), I look for a spot with the other side empty so I can pull through and thus exit without backing up. This usually means parking farther from the store entrance, but I can use the extra exercise.

    I also limit my daily mileage on road trips to around 500 mi., down from the 600 – 700 I used to do.

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