What age is TOO old to drive

Boy this is a really sticky subject to get into. I mean, nothing is more touchy than discussing age and age related topics. Particularly when it’s time to suggest that maybe a loved one shouldn’t be driving due to age. But, seeing how actress Reese Witherspoon was recently in a car/pedestrian accident with a woman in her 90’s, it seems like an appropriate topic. Now, I know I’m setting myself up for some type of, “You can have the key to my car when you pry them from my cold dead fingers” type comment, but this is a very serious subject that has been at the heart of many heated debates and discussions. The reason?

Elderly drivers now account for nearly 20 percent of all motorists, according to the Government Accountability Office. And that number isn’t shrinking in the coming years, because those who make up the first wave of the huge baby-boom generation turned 65 this year.

According to a recent survey from The Hartford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, almost 1-in-10 adults are now worried about an older family member’s driving.

So, how do you go about taking what seems like the last the last bit of autonomy left from an aging parent or guardian? The American Association of Retired Persons teamed up with the MIT AgeLab — in conjunction with The Hartford — to produce an online course, titled “We Need to Talk.” It gives family members information on the emotional connection to driving, tips on observing the driving skills of their elderly parents, and suggestions on how to broach the subject of whether or not the elderly parent’s driving skills may have diminished — and if so, when it might be time to hang up the keys.

20 things to look for:

• Decrease in confidence while driving
• Difficulty turning to see when backing up
• Easily distracted while driving
• Other drivers often honk horns
• Hitting curbs
• Scrapes or dents on the car, mailbox or garage
• Increased agitation or irritation when driving
• Failure to notice traffic signs or important activity on the side of the road
• Trouble navigating turns
• Driving at inappropriate speeds
• Uses a “copilot”
• Bad judgment making left turns
• Delayed response to unexpected situations
• Moving into wrong lane or difficulty maintaining lane position
• Confusion at exits
• Ticketed moving violations or warnings
• Getting lost in familiar places
• Car accident
• Failure to stop at stop sign or red light
• Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason

If “Pappy” is still resistant to giving up the keys, then you will soon find out that there are guidelines set in place by many States which have medical review boards, consisting of health care professionals, who advise on licensing standards, and in individual cases where a person’s ability to drive safely is in doubt. The criteria for evaluation includes, but is not limited to, a history of crashes or violations, reports by physicians, police, and others — state licensing agencies may require renewal applicants to undergo physical or mental examinations.

I’m sure this type of testing and evaluation is embarrassing for everyone who has to go through it, however it is for the safety of the rest of the citizenry…and let’s face it, one day, you too will be at the end of this line.

So, as you can see, determining the age that you or a loved one should hang up their keys not only varies on a case by case basis, but also will prove to be more heart-wrenching than you may think.

Do you have a story, or any advice you can give the rest of us on this topic? I’d love to hear it.

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