Do You Worry About Your Elderly Parents or Grandparents Driving?
Do you worry about your parents or grandparents getting behind the wheel of a car?
An elderly Kansas couple recently went missing after relatives realized they had not made it to their intended destination. The media was contacted and a search ensued. Vernon Hunt, 92, and his wife Goldie, 81, of Garnett, Kansas left their home on Monday for an eight hour trip from their home in Kansas to visit family in Illinois. When they failed to show up, their son reported them missing. The couple was found on Wednesday afternoon in Mio, Michigan about 400 miles from their original destination. The local police chief said they took a wrong turn. I wonder if there might be more than just taking a wrong turn. Could it be that the time has come for Mr. and Mrs. Hunt to stop taking long trips alone? The Hunts were lucky that they were just lost and able to return home safely. The outcome could have been different.
Driving an automobile is a privilege that comes with great responsibility and requires precise skill and coordination. While the legal age to drive varies throughout the country all states require training both in the classroom and on the road. Teens and young adults must learn the rules of the road as well as the coordination skills it takes to operate a vehicle safely. With age comes sharpened skills and with sharpened skills comes enhanced safety on the road. But what happens when those skills begin to wane due to the advanced aging process? Should there be an age limit on drivers licensing? After all there is a minimum age requirement; shouldn’t there be a maximum age limit?
During the learning process tests are administered to ensure that the potential driver knows the rules of the road including parking, driving distance between vehicles, speed limits, road signs and general knowledge. When the written test is passed successfully the road or driving test is administered to test driving technique and ability on the road. Only after both tests are successfully passed is the driver’s license issued. In my state driver’s licenses are re-issued every five years; a process that does not include re-taking either test.
It is a known fact that our physical abilities diminish with age; it’s a fact of life. As we age our reactionary times vary, vision is often impaired and our minds may not be quite as sharp as they were in our early years. All of these factors affect our ability to operate a vehicle safely. Putting safeguards in place for older drivers I believe is essential in keeping everyone safe including the older drivers. For those of us with aging parents the desire to allow them to keep their independence for as long as possible is important. However, safety for all concerned should be first and foremost when helping them make decisions regarding driving and other lifestyle issues. For example, while someone may be quick witted and able to do every day routine tasks, their reaction or reflex time in the car may be diminished.
In an article posted on the Davis Law Group (Seattle Washington) website, from March 2012 statistics show that states like Florida have high fatality rate in automobile accidents involving senior citizens where a large part of the population is retirees of advanced age. The debate over testing senior citizens on a yearly basis to keep their driver’s license rages on throughout the country. The cost for such testing is high and could cause an already overloaded division of motor vehicles more backups, however, the severity of this issue remains.
For me, I believe that testing should be mandated across the country after a certain age; possibly after 65 when most folks retire. It’s not a matter of humiliating or degrading someone because of their age, it’s about keeping everyone on the road including the older drivers as safe as possible. I would hope that as I advance in age my family would be vigilant enough to make sure that my ability to drive is monitored for the safety of not only myself but those on the road as well and so that I don’t wind up some 400 miles off course in unfamiliar territory lost causing my family to worry.