When you were 16 or 17, getting your driver’s license was a right of passage. Being able to cut those apron strings from Mom was a big deal. Ever since then your car has been a way to take you to wherever you wanted to go. Well, sometimes its more expedient to fly, but you get my drift.
But now, you are in your late 80’s. Your legs aren’t as strong as they were. Your vision is a little fuzzy sometimes and you tend to wander over into the other lane here and there. Is it time to stop driving? If you had asked me that a couple of years ago I would have said “yes”. No one wants to face the prospect of a loved one causing an accident. But now, with cars that have so many more safety features built in, I am rethinking the hand over the keys conversation.
Late model automobiles, built within the last couple of years have a number of safety features built into them. The Lane warnings, the backup cameras, the self braking features and more. Soon we won’t have to address the question at all, because cars will be driving for us. But for now, Personal Health Writer Jane E Brody, made some good points about newer cars and older drivers in her New York Times Post:
“As Elin Schold Davis, coordinator of the Older Driver Initiative of the American Occupational Therapy Association, put it, “It’s not about taking away the keys based on age, it’s about function.” The current approach is “to support people to enable them to drive as long as possible” without unduly endangering themselves or anyone else…..
The AAA has created a very useful computerized site to help older drivers identify the makes and models of vehicles within various price ranges that may best suit their particular issues. At SeniorDriving.AAA.com/SmartFeatures, drivers can use drop-down menus to choose among categories like diminished vision, limited upper body range of motion, short stature or overweight, and decreased leg strength.
For those with various vision problems common among the elderly, for example, features like a high-contrast instrument panel with large number and letter displays, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and glare-reducing side mirrors can enhance driver safety.
Sometimes features that auto engineers consider helpful are annoying or distracting for some drivers. Several of the visual or audible warnings in my new car can be turned on or off by the driver.
Ms. Schold Davis urged people to “plan to spend time choosing a car and select the latest built-in safety features you can afford.” Noting that “not all safety features are alike car-to-car,” she said choosing the right car should be individualized according to each driver’s needs. The ultimate goal: “Decrease the likelihood of a crash and cushion against serious injury should a crash occur,” she said.
With the exception of dementia or certain conditions like serious visual impairment, “the diagnosis of a medical condition should not determine whether it’s safe for someone to drive,” Mr. Nelson said. “What does matter is how you manage your condition — whether, for example, you have diabetes and keep your blood sugar under control to prevent a blackout.” Manage your health issue properly, and chances are there is a car available that is safe for you to drive.
The University of Florida’s Institute for Mobility, Activity and Participation has created a free fitness-to-drive screening tool to help families and caregivers assess an older adult’s fitness to get behind the wheel. It is available at http://fitnesstodrive.phhp.ufl.edu. The online tool can rate a driver’s difficulty with 54 driving skills and classify the driver as at-risk, routine or accomplished.”
My thoughts are, the ability to keep driving should be contingent on the sharpness of the skills the driver has. If they have considerable trouble with controlling the car, the even the controls built into the newer models won’t keep them safe. If, for the most part, they are still good drivers, then by all means, check out some of the newer cars with the parking assist, lane notification, auto braking and let your Mom or Dad keep on driving!