I need to write about this, if only to get it off my chest. There was a piece on Nightly News recently – actually, it aired on February 16 and has haunted me ever since. How do you know, Brian Williams asked, when the time comes to take the car keys away from elderly parents? Dr. Nancy Snyderman was the medical expert here, and she sited statistics on the number of auto accidents among elderly drivers. She also talked about why this happens – slow response, confusion, deteriorating spacial judgment, and so on. The focus of her piece, though, was an interview with a 94-year-old man who had made the decision, with his family’s approval, to limit his driving to daylight and his own neighborhood.
I was fine with all this. Then, however, the talk turned to the steps individual states are taking to test the elderly before renewing their licenses. In this gentleman’s state, for instance, he was asked to submit his medical records. Dr. Snyderman asked if this bothered him. Not at all, he said. He had nothing to hide. He was in great health.
This is what haunts me.
What about seniors who aren’t in great health? Do we assume that their driving suffers because of an illness that may have nothing to do with eyesight or attention or response time? Or a senior with a long history of illness, who may be healthy right now and an excellent driver – will that senior lose his or her license? Who is looking at these medical records and making the decision – an employee of the Registry of Motor Vehicles? A doctor?
Do you find this as troublesome as I do? Okay, maybe I’m overly sensitive after my run-in with the one-and-only airport scanner to pick up my 16-year-old breast cancer implant (which, BTW, they picked up on only one side, though I have them on two). But, really. Where’s the common sense here? To give or withhold a drivers licensed based on a paper trail rather than a person’s current ability to drive seems wrong. Wouldn’t a Registry road test every few years after a certain age be a better judge?
A disclaimer here. I never had elderly parents. They died too young. So I can’t speak from personal experience.
But I keep thinking how awful it would be if my husband or I were to reach the stage where we couldn’t drive and were dependent on others. No jaunts to the supermarket. No drives to the mall to walk inside for two miles. No impulse trips to the McDonalds drive-thru for a medium diet coke, no ice, please. No freedom? No independence? No hope?
I’m all for taking dangerous drivers off the road. But there has to be a way to do it that makes sense. Your thoughts here?
By the way, here’s the NBC piece. www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/ If the link doesn’t take you there, click on Health, then Too Old to Drive.