Revisiting the issue of incompetent elderly drivers

alisandeMay 15, 2012

I just read this article from Slate on the complex issue of road safety and the elderly. Several of my friends with elderly parents or in-laws are wrestling with this problem.

I love to drive, and hope I remain a good driver for the duration of my driving life.....

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There will be a time when we all should stop, and I hope when that time comes, I will retire from driving gracefully.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:22PM
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ravencajun Zone 8b TX

It is so difficult, but it has to be done, no one likes being told no they are no longer able to safely drive.
We got lucky Mom failed the eye test so her license was not renewed. She was going to the store and would forget where she was and panic. One day my sister got a call from this very nice lady telling her that Mom was at her house and was apparently lost and confused. My sister and her husband drove to get her, she was several miles away and several towns away! When they told her where she was she wanted to know how she got there she was adamant she had not driven there.
Thank goodness she went to the home of nice people, I shudder to think of what could have happened.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:27PM
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My late MIL hit a parked car on her way to church, she didn't even stop. The police took her license away. She was in her 80's and had just gotten her driver's license renewed...

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:36PM
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My Dad had a one-car accident, totaled his car, but the roads were icy that day so my only concern was his stubbornness going out to buy an onion on a bad day. But when I found out later that he was having TIA's/mini-strokes, I knew I had to take action. I asked my older brother to take his keys, but he was too big a wuss to do it. Everyone else kept lowering their eyes, mumbling, so I did it. I knew I couldn't live with myself if he had an accident involving other people. He wasn't happy at all.

I'll hate losing my 'right' to drive, and I hope I'm strong enough to make that decision myself, but if not, then I hope one of my kids is able to do it for me. (I may have the 'right' to drive, but I don't have the 'right' to harm or kill someone else when it's plain I'm not competent any longer.)


    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:52PM
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My Mom made the decision to stop driving. Years later my husband had 2 wrecks in the same year which is a very bad sign. He was diagnossed with AZ. His last wreck was very serious, but no one was hurt. I told him we could lose everything we have if he had hurt someone. He gave it up and they issued him an ID that looks like one. He had just bought a Dodge Dakota and wanted to keep it. The next time an insurance bill came in I showed it to him and he said sell it. He made good decsions, but I handled the situation with care.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:58PM
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My brother and I monitor Dad's driving carefully. He celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday, and still is an excellent driver. He has had no tickets or accidents in many, many years, but we know the day will come that we will have to take away his car keys. Boy, do we dread that day!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 2:49PM
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Fortunately, my grandma was able to hide the keys from my grandfather. Grandma gave up driving in the 60's so it was never an issue for her.

I just hope we don't eventually have to take away keys with my dad. He's fine now. I think he would probably hot wire the car and then order a new key. I'm sure he would outsmart us.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 2:58PM
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I hope everyone will luck out, as I did. My father was a car person (as I am), and I dreaded the prospect of separating him from his vehicle. He bought several "last cars," the true last one when he was 89. He died at 90, driving safely till the end.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 3:04PM
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We all agonized over telling my Dad he could no longer drive. He was getting really bad as I was told (we live 3,000 miles away) by my mother. Nobody would take the keys away or tell him he could no longer drive safely.

My mother finally hid his keys and he never could find them. She also kept her keys from him. He finally got used to her driving him and he decided that he wouldn't drive because he wouldn't want to hurt anyone. He was 89 at the time.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 3:43PM
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My FIL renewed his driver's license when he was 90, but gave up driving about a yr later. So glad he decided on his own to do so.

Check out this video of a woman who is 101 & continues to drive her 81 yr old Packard. Whata woman, whata car. She looks great & would never guess her to be 101!.

(I tried to "embed" without success.)

Here is a link that might be useful: Two Classics

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 5:11PM
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beeohio, I really loved the entire video, but especially that last few sentences.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 6:17PM
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Gadgets, did ya notice near the end how she had the red cloth on the running board (to keep the dirt out), which she stepped on, then picked up, after she was in the seat? I love that little touch. I'll bet the car is immaculate.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 7:05PM
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There have been several seniors lose their lives in this state (ND) due to the increase in truck traffic. One just about 2 weeks ago where a man in his late 80's tried to go between 2 fracking (sand) trucks. They were not going fast and were not real close, but he slowed down and that was it. It really hit the trucker. Several seniors have run either stop signs or signals and oil trucks have hit them. Here it is a problem that the oil boom has come so fast, the locals just are not aware of the increase in traffic. Also we have a large increase of out of state people who need jobs and many have brought their campers/trailers with to live in.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 8:28PM
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This is a sensitive subject for me, as, nine years ago, our oldest son and oldest granddaughter (age 6) were killed by an elderly driver in Naples who ran a red light. The damage she did is everlasting and nearly unbearable. I urge seniors and their families to evaluate their abilities honestly and ask themselves if they could live with this sort of guilt.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 8:43AM
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Oh, Sudie, how horrible. I'm so sorry you've had to go through that. Everlasting indeed.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 8:58AM
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I'm 81 and have to take my written test again yhis year. I passed with no prolem 2 years ago. I've told my children that I want them to tell me if they think I should hang up my keys. I don't want to make things hard for them and I know it would be. I see such terribe drivers and cyclists on the road and many are not seniors. I could never forgive myself if I injured someone.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 10:43AM
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For every thing there is a season! However, the percentage of auto accidents attributed to incompetent Senior drivers pales when compared to another demographic who shouldn't be driving either.

Teenage drivers cause the most auto accidents with injuries requiring hosptializations, and fatalites. And they *need* to drive because...?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 11:24AM
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As people get older, it's normal for their driving abilities to change. By reducing risk factors and incorporating safe driving practices, many can continue driving safely long into senior years. Millions of senior citizens still retain their driver's licenses. Typically, it's not an issue, but some of them are driving with dementia, or at least the early onset of it. There are some things in place to deal with it in some places, but it still remains a subject of debate as to how best to deal with the issue.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 3:40AM
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I knew my vision was going, also my peripheral vision and depth perception so I told my DD I'm not going to drive anymore. I was about 65. She drives me wherever I need to go now. Yes, I miss not being to where and when I'd like to, but I would never take the chance.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 5:36AM
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My Dad was always a good safe driver. He had only one accident in his life, someone hit him from behind, and bragged about how he never got any tickets. He died at age 75 and never gave up driving. Mom had a fender-bender in a store parking lot when she was around 70 and voluntaruly gave up driving. Luckily she had a son and 2 daughters who lived close and would drive her. I'm still driving okay at 59 but I hate night driving and driving in bad weather so I avoid them. My husband who has MS (multiple sclerosis) quit driving a few years ago. Lucky he has me. But I do think DMV should test older drivers regularly, perhaps starting at age 70 and every 5 years after?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 6:35AM
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My 87 year old mother insisted on renewing her drivers license for "identification" purposes, even though she was legally blind and never drove after age 70. And she certsainly didn't need to show "proof"' for movies or to order alcoholic drinks! I laughed-just a matter of pride!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:02AM
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I had an experience a couple weeks ago. My husband had to go to the city hospital for 5 days. He drove in early in the morning and I drove back home later in the day. Well, I had to take the interstate and parts of it is 5 lanes. What a scarey place to be. I knew I couldn't do this again. With all the semis it made it difficult to see the signs ahead. I missed a turn off or two. I finally saw a familiar one and knew I was going to make it. My daughter showed me an easier way and was I ever thankful. At 64 I know where to go and where the places are to avoid..

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:20AM
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Last month I took AARP's safe driving course (two 4-hour classes) in order to get a discount on my auto insurance. I was not looking forward to it. I'm a car person and I like to drive--and in most cases I feel safer if I'm behind the wheel--but I didn't relish the thought of sitting in a classroom for 8 hours.

I found, however, that it was more pleasant and more informative than I had anticipated. I'm told this is what most people report after taking the classes. One thing I learned was how to drive near big trucks. I knew that we should pass quickly to get out of their blind spot and out of the wind they create, but I didn't know another reason is to avoid being next to one of them should they have a blowout. Apparently blowouts are quite common.

I also didn't know that a truck's blind "spot" is actually three very large areas: one on either side, and quite a stretch in the back. And I learned never to slow down in front of a truck. This was important for me because when I'm driving my summer car (a '92 Chevy Caprice "cop car") I often let it coast. Unlike most newer cars, there's no drag on the transmission if I take my foot of the gas pedal. I think this is why the car gets such good gas mileage--much of the time my foot is not on the gas! With even a slight downgrade it'll fly. On the interstates I use cruise control if the traffic is light, so my speed is always maintained that way.

Anyway, many of the class participants appeared to be older than I, and reported having problems with their driving. I think the class will make them more aware of their driving, which is a critical first step. I hope high schoolers get the same sort of experience in Driver's Ed.

BTW, the teacher said I'd be a good person to teach the class, and gave me an application. I love to teach, so I was somewhat interested--for about 30 seconds, until he told me it was an unpaid, volunteer position. :-)

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:10AM
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Volunteering is good for the heart and soul, please don't pass on this opportunity! If we didn't have good volunteers, where would we all be? You'll have a great time, your students will be appreciative and the sense of being valuable to the community will have you walking on air.

Please reconsider.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:34AM
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Sushipup, I've done a lot of volunteering--from being a La Leche League Leader and District Advisor to giving talks for the National Traffic Safety Council. I'm presently the Media Officer for an arts group, teach occasional classes at the library, and do what I can for the animal shelter. I'd consider the AARP job if I didn't have several major projects that I really need to focus on right now. Focus has always been an issue with me..... ;-)

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 10:48AM
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I was driving to town one day....I live 15 miles from town, and coming towards me on the road was a red and white, older model ford pick up. He was in my lane, headed right for me. I hit the side of the road...fortunately there was a wide roadside before the ditch. As he passed me, I saw he had to be well into his 90's. Driving on the wrong side of the road, oblivious to the fact he had run me off the road.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:24AM
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Alisande, you do good! Maybe my pep talk will encourage someone else to volunteer in their community!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 12:14PM
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We can hope, Sushi! And how could I forget that I'm a volunteer gravestone photographer?? I've had my nose in gravestone pictures all morning. So far I've taken 927 photos (and counting) for FindAGrave.

One of these days I'm going to ask the other KT gravestone photographers how they're doing.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 12:26PM
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When it comes time for me to stop, I sincerly hope that I can stop and not have to take a chance due to circumstances. This concern has affected my thought about the location of the last domicile that I might live in as an owner. It should be within walking distance of basic goods and services that I need. I have 3 children, but at present it seems that I will not be able to depend on help from any of them.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 3:31AM
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3 weeks ago a 100 year old woman drove her car into a Hometown Buffet restaurant here in town. She injured quite a few people. She said that she mixed up the brake and accelerator pedals. There really should be mandatory testing on elderly drivers.

I'm 35 and would have no problem giving up mine. I hate driving. Just let me win the lottery so I can afford a chaueffer and I will happily cut my license up. Ha Ha.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 11:58AM
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Speaking of that, Shed....that happened to us. We were in a Chinese restaurant and a man crashed his truck through the wall and hit our table. He stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. Fortunately, we weren't badly injured. It was quite a shock when the brick and plaster wall crumbled right alongside our table.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 7:56PM
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Oh wow Marilyn! How fortunate that nobody got hurt! That must have been scary!

I remember hearing that somebody in the restaurant might have to have a leg amputated but I didn't hear anything on the news after. From time to time I hear these stories and the driver always seems to have the same excuse - confusing the pedals. I wonder why that is?

My Mom will be 70 in October and her driving scares me. She stops at the green lights and then proceeds through the intersection (essentially treating them as a yield) and then she stops 5 feet over the crosswalk at red lights. Yikes. No accidents, though (knock on wood).

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 1:45AM
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I remember a few years ago an elderly woman asked the clerk at a local flower shop if she would come out with her and watch the road because she was nervous about backing out of her parking space. There was plenty of room for her to swing out before she got near the road, but of course the clerk said sure, she would help.

The woman got in her car, and the clerk stood between the outside wall of the shop and the front of the woman's car. She told the woman it was safe to back out. The woman stepped on the gas--but the car was in drive. She hit the clerk, pinning her between the car and the shop, both legs broken.

I see that the AARP Driver Safety Classes are now offered online:

Driver Safety Classes

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 9:11AM
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When we hit 80 (if you'll pardon the expression) we have a gathering with about a dozen others to watch a video of things that seniors should be aware of, plus discussion, for something over an hour.

Then there's a break, and we have a test of 20 or 40 multiple choice questions, and another of similar size asking us to identify signs.

Some are selected to have a driving test.

After 80, we have such an evaluation every two years. On my second go-round, I was first to have my tests evaluated, and asked the lady whether we got a gold star if we got them all right ...

... and she said that she was considering having one made up of a car and a happy face.

As I live almost 10 miles from a village and about 15 miles from the city, I figure that I can live where I am on the farm until I can no longer drive, as hitch-hiking in winter is rather a dreary enterprise.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:57PM
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