My father taught me how to drive. And he was a drunk driver. So I learned how to weave and drift across three lanes. He would place his beer can on the center of the dashboard and say “Now line that can up with the side of the road to keep your lane perspective.” Then he’d climb over the seat and pass out. That was nearly 30 years ago and now he is 78 years old and in bad health. With 60 plus years of driving experience, it’s hard to imagine having to talk to him about hanging up his keys now that he’s a senior driver. While elderly drivers don’t cause as many accidents as drunk drivers or inexperienced teen drivers, because of their frailty, they usually are seriously or critically injured in a motor vehicle collision.
I recently visited my parents at their home up north. When my parents were taking me back to the airport to fly home, my dad started drifting into another lane, directly into the side of a semi-truck. He was trying to turn on the dome light to get change for the tollway. I asked my mom to get the change for him or we’re all going to die. A few minutes later, he was drifting across lanes again. He was trying to count change for the tollway. I asked my mother to count it for him. My sisters, who were also visiting and not flying out until the next morning, were still at my parents home. So, I was texting them from the back seat of my dad’s truck “Don’t let dad drive you to the airport…we’re all going to die.” When we made it to the airport my Mom said “Call us when your flight gets in.” I said “You call ME! I’m going to be on a plane for 2 hours with no cell phone reception, not knowing if you made it home alive.” That evening, they took my Dad to the emergency room. It appears that he was having a mini-stroke while he was driving me to the airport. He’s usually a pretty good driver. So we should have guessed that something was wrong.
In most states, people aged 75 and older must apply in person for every renewal. A senior driver is also usually required to take a road test. People aged 81-86 are required to renew their license every two years and aged 87 and older are required to renew their license every year.
If you are a senior driver or you know someone who is, there are some awesome websites that give you tips on how to evaluate their driving skills to see if they’re safe behind the wheel. One such website is AAA (American Automobile Association). This particular link helps them evaluate their driving skills http://seniordriving.aaa.com/sites/default/files/Driver65.12.13.pdf while this link is an actual assessment tool to rate their driving habits http://seniordriving.aaa.com/evaluate-your-driving-ability/self-rating-tool
If you know a senior driver who you suspect may be unable to operate a motor vehicle, have a talk with them and let them know the importance of safe driving habits. Even wearing seat belts seems to be an issue from older generations. Most don’t like to wear a seat belt because it’s uncomfortable and it wrinkles their outfit. Not like going through the windshield won’t wrinkle your outfit…and your head.
Until next week…
Writer / Comedienne / Artist
Elderly Drivers – Comedy Defensive Driving