People love to poke fun at elderly drivers.From their sluggish driving speed to not being able to see over their own dashboard.And, well, both are a bit dangerous if you really think about it.

My parents are now about a decade past their prime retirement age. I was telling my sister how I had noticed that our parents, who have been married for over 50 years, are so terribly co-dependent that they even share reading glasses. Mom’s reading the paper in Dad’s big black framed Mister Magoo-looking glasses.She looks like a shop teacher in drag. My Dad’s reading a manual on spousal abuse.  He’s wearing my Mom’s pink cat-eye glasses. Yes, the ones with the rhinestones.And now, the two of them have become so out-of-control co-dependent that they’re also on the same medications to control their diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol.And not just the same meds.The exact same dosage, too.My sister was like “Duh, Mom has cooked for both of them for 50 years…canned this and fried that…it’s not that surprising.”

So, with health issues looming, when is it time to persuade someone to turn in their keys?Since I am the adult child of an elderly driver, I realize that having a drivers license and being independent is a vital part of an elderly person’s life.Once that independence is taken away, it’s a sad existence for most elderly folks.To most, it’s a sensitive subject.But one’s major concern should be the safety of their elderly parent as well as the safety of others driving around them.My Mother confided in me that lately, my Father’s driving scares the crap out of her. That’s where the incontinent diapers comes in handy (too mean?).The latest incident, they were in a rental mini van in Florida, coming back from the dog track with two other couples from their retirement community.My Dad was following someone too close (that was her main gripe) and they hit a black bear. He didn’t see it and it totally messed up that mini van. But as he said “It’s a rental…who cares.” I’m sure all three couples had to go to Walgreens to get their blood pressure checked (too mean again??).

To help with the decision making, most states have added restrictions on elderly license renewals.And, while some seniors cause more accidents than others due to deteriorating physical and mental abilities, teenage drivers, who are less experienced cause just as many, if not more accidents. Inexperienced drivers have restrictions on them when they first start driving. In Texas, the restrictions lift after 6 months.So, some argue that restrictions based solely on age are discriminatory.

Some states require that a senior cannot renew their license by mail or internet.And most states require a more frequent renewal period for seniors. Texas requires renewal every two years for drivers age 85 or older, where regular renewal for all other drivers is six years.Some states are every 3 years for seniors.Generally, the renewal process requires a written test, road test, eye test, etc.Noting how many moving violations and/or crashes in a certain period of time would also come into play. AARP and other organizations offer driver safety programs for mature drivers, so there are programs out there.  Good to know. And some insurance companies allow discounts after defensive driving courses, so it’s a good idea to take one even if you don’t have a ticket…

Too bad you can’t use that senior citizen discount for a moving violation…that’d really come in handy.

Until next week…be sweet to old people…they’ve been driving longer than you have.

Daun Thompson

( Daun Thompson is a comedienne, writer and artist residing in Dallas )