Driving is about so much more than getting from point a to point b. It gives us a sense of freedom. Once we get behind the wheel, it's hard to imagine anyone would ever have to take that freedom away from us. Sometimes it's for our own safety- especially as we get older. One surprising fact I learned is most of the changes that happen to us as we age are so subtle that most seniors don't even notice until it's too late.
We know there are dangers every time we get behind the wheel and those risks increase as we get older. Robert Carson makes sure seniors learn all about those dangers in the AARP driving course he teaches. "Their hearing starts to go. Their vision starts to go and along with that you have reaction time issues," explained Robert Carson, AARP Driving Instructor.
That spells trouble on the roads. "A car is not like a little golf cart or a little scooter where if you hit somebody you might not kill them. A car is a weapon," added Patti Lyons, Executive Director of Senior Citizens, Inc.
She hears about the dangers almost daily at the senior citizens center. Believe it or not, many states including GA and South Carolina require older drivers retake the vision part of the driver's test, but no one at the Department of Motor Vehicles would say that they could legally take away an elderly person's license if they failed the exam. They rely on families working with them to get those drivers off the roads. Lyons says families need to get help from a third party like their doctor to break the news to their elderly loved ones that they shouldn't be driving any longer. Doctors can provide a note alerting the DMV that the senior should not be given a license. "The key is doing it to the point where you maintain their dignity at the same time and you don't try to shame them because they are not going to take it easy," explained Lyons.
That may mean making arrangements for your loved one to get wherever they need to go. While a ride to a hair salon or church may not be a big deal for us since we can go whenever we want to, it is important to seniors as they try to maintain a healthy, happy and normal life. Ignoring the warning signs from the senior driver, it could lead to disaster. "If someone who has been harmed has a good attorney, it doesn't take long to figure out if they have been told that they should not drive by a doctor or if they have been told that they had dementia and the family knows and has not taken away the steps necessary and they injured someone. They are responsible and people don't think about that. They could lose everything not just your parents, the children as well," said Lyons.
Ignoring the warning signs from the senior driver could lead to disaster. It's important to remember that all of us will come to this point if we are blessed to live in a long life. Families need to know this is about a lot more than just driving. "This is the start of really being an older person and it is the first thing that you lose most of the time is that ability to drive so they know they know that this is that moment that taste of mortality that nobody ever wants to face and that's why it's hard and there will be anger there will be depression there will be denial," said Lyons.