No one wants to hear they have to turn in their driver’s license, no matter the driver’s age. Losing your license can be the end of your personal freedom, at least to some extent. While it’s true that driving is a privilege and not a right, and public transportation can be a substitute for the carless, what happens when driving privileges are revoked in a town without a good bus system?
For elder folks, the subject of turning in their driver’s license can be very difficult to deal with. Relying on other family members and doctors to help intervene with this subject can soften the blow for those not ready to give up their license yet but may be required to by law. A recent study conducted by TRIP, a non-profit organization and a national transportation research group found that using family members and doctors can ease the anger elder folks who are faced with forfeiting their driver’s license may feel. The study also shows the government doesn’t need to add more laws and legislation and that support and interventions from family and friends will make the process easier.
“The vast majority of senior drivers do a good job, recognize they have problems and take measures to correct them,” said Dr. Daniel K. Onion, an expert on elderly driving issues to the Bangor Daily News. “A small percentage have a cognitive impairment and they can’t recognize their own disabilities. That’s when interventions are called for.”
While not all elder folk have trouble turning in their driver’s license some still do. According to the report there were 5,750 fatal car accidents in the United States in 2010 that involved one driver that was 65 or older. Drivers 65 and above account for eight percent of all miles logged on U.S. roads but 17 percent of all fatal traffic accidents. As stated earlier, not all cities and towns have adequate public transportation forcing elder folks and others who may not be fit to be behind the wheel onto public roads.
“We must maintain and modernize our transportation system to assure it is safe for users of all ages,” said John O’Dea, CEO of the Associated Contractors of Maine. “But these safety needs cannot be addressed without adequate transportation funding at the local, state and federal level.”
In an attempt to address the issue of driving when a loved one who is elderly arises the study shows that talking it out is your best bet. The DMV says it receives many concerns about those who are no longer fit to be behind the wheel from law enforcement and doctors but the most effective referrals come from families themselves. If an effective referral is received, the DMV can require a driver to retake the driver’s test or even seek treatment for whatever condition is hampering one’s driving ability.
“One thing we really want to focus on is planning for retirement of driving and speaking with family members when they’re in their 50s and 60s to develop a plan for later on,” said Tom Arnold, Maine’s Deputy Secretary of State. “That’s so they can make that step when they need to and not be surprised by it. For an elderly person to give up their freedom of driving in Maine is exponentially harder [than it is in more populated states].”
Some factors one might show when they are no longer fit to drive are being involved in a minor or even major car accidents. Multiple driving infractions like failing to stop at a stop sign, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, and forgetting where they’re going are also clear giveaways.
“A question I like to ask family members is, ‘Is it OK for the grandchildren or great-grandchildren to ride with the person?’” said Onion. “Oftentimes family members know there is a problem long before the driver does. Riding with the person or following them in your car when they’re going somewhere to see how they drive is a good suggestion.”
It’s never easy telling a loved one they may need to stop driving as much or even all together but the sooner a solution is reached, the safer and happier everyone will be.
Do you think elderly drivers should go through different tests at the DMV to evaluate if they can still drive? Sound off in the comment section below.
Source: Bangor Daily News