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Is it still safe to drive? Have the doctor request a driving test

Written by Diane Archer

If you are lucky enough to live to a ripe old age, there may come a time when you should stop driving, both for your own safety and the safety of others. You may no longer have the reflexes, the hearing, the vision, or the overall ability to react quickly to a challenging situation on the road. Is it still safe to drive or time to put away the car keys? With the doctor’s help, get a driving test.

My dad was still driving, and driving very cautiously, at the age of 91. He was only driving during the day, on local roads with relatively little traffic, at low speed limits. And, he loved the freedom driving offered him to get out and about. So, it was extremely hard for me to decide what to do.

Different people offered me different advice. Some suggested I simply take away his keys, which I was unprepared to do. My dad showed no signs of being a danger on the road. And, I do not believe it was my place to make the decision for him. His doctor, likewise, was not prepared to say he should not drive.

I broached the topic with my dad, a highly responsible man. And, he saw no reason to stop driving. He was super careful. He did not feel stressed or anxious about driving. And, being able to drive gave him much valued independence. It allowed him to get to the grocery store, the pharmacy and his water aerobics class, all important destinations for him.

I respected my father’s position, but I also worried for his safety and the safety of others. I then learned that the registry of motor vehicles (RMV) gave “competency” tests to older people to determine whether they were still fit to drive. That seemed like a good idea to me, but my father was resistant. He did not see the need. And, the RMV would not require it on its own.

So, I spoke to my dad’s doctor. She offered to send a letter to the registry of motor vehicles requesting he take the competency test. On his doctor’s request, the RMV would schedule it. And, shortly thereafter, the RMV called my dad in.

His driver’s license was revoked before he had taken the road test. My dad failed the vision and hearing test. On one hand, I felt terrible for my dad. On the other hand, I appreciated that neither he nor I was not the appropriate judge of his driving ability or his safety and the safety of others, so long as he was behind the wheel.

The National Institute on Aging, NIH, has several tips for helping people decide whether they should continue driving or rely on other forms of transportation.

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