An editorial published recently in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has created quite a bit of interest. Author Donald Redelmeier has proposed that a graduated licensing system – similar to what is in place for new drivers – be implemented for seniors. The argument goes that Seniors in failing health, either physically or mentally, could benefit from restrictions such as no nighttime driving, no high speed highway driving and certainly no blood alcohol (although I believe that is a no-no, regardless of your age)!
When my father passed away my mother decided she needed to learn to drive. It was a very stressful time for us, listening to her stories of signing up for yet another course of new driver’s education. But the point of a graduated license would have made perfect sense to her. After all, she was the one who called me in a huff, to say that the driver ed instructor wanted her to exit onto the 401 Highway. Her response: “Why the heck should I go on the highway to practice? I only need to get to the hairdresser’s and church!”
Fortunately for every other driver on the road, when it was time to move from her graduated license to her full drivers license, she did not pass the test and her driving career came to an abrupt end.
The pros and cons of a graduated licensing system for seniors have been clearly argued. Some are quick to state that statistically, seniors on the whole are not overly represented in traffic accidents. However, their injuries are often more severe, often fatal, due to the fact that they are more frail.
Drivers over 80 already have to renew their licenses every two years and have to perform a written test and possibly a road test. The number of drivers 80 years of age and older went up 250% between 1996 and 2008 — from 90,000 to 230,000 and as the numbers of seniors is expected to increase substantially over the next few years, this number will increase as well.
But I am in full agreement: it should be health and ability to drive safely, not age, that determines whether you should have a license or not.
Fortunately, there is some help along the way to help families sort through the decision making to determine if a parent can safely drive – or not. To contact a self assessment professional in the USA:
Beyond Driving with Dignity provides individuals with professional certification to help older drivers make a "smooth transition" from the driver's seat to the passenger seat, while still helping them maintain their personal dignity and independence.
At the Silver Pages, we are interested in Beyond Driving with Dignity on two levels: first, we think the concept and the content of the course are excellent. The course will help families get through the whole complex decision making process to determine – rationally – if their parent should still be driving or not. With the ‘grey tsunami’ coming as more and more baby boomers head into the golden years, and with projections of dementia and Alzheimer’s increasing at alarming rates, we have to tackle this problem head on.
If you are a caregiver struggling with the whole issue of determining someone's ability to continue driving, a Beyond Driving with Dignity certified professional may be just what you are looking for. For more information on Beyond Driving with Dignity, please contact The Silver Pages at 905-309-1525.
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