essays

Hand Over the Keys, Pops

old driversBoomers may not have to worry about it for a while, but their parents? That’s another story. Some states do not require elderly drivers to get retested, they just automatically renew their licenses. So when do you take away their car keys?

In a New York Times article, writer Kate Stone Lombardi looks at anecdotal evidence that some older drivers are crossing the line -- literally.

The children of these drivers have to decide when enough is enough. If the only factor was the wellbeing of the elderly driver, it might not be such a big deal, but the reality is that an unfit driver can kill someone else through their negligence (i.e. they can’t see!!).

The graph of the driver fatality rate is shaped like a U. Sixteen-year-olds for the peak on one end and drivers 85 and older max out the graph at the other end. The diminished health of the elderly driver is a big factor in whether they can survive even a minor car accident.

My own mother drove a car when she was in her 80s and I’m not sure why she finally hung up the keys. I also remember that I could not ride in a car that my father was driving when he was in his 80s. I only had to sit in the passenger seat once when he was trying to pull onto a larger highway from a side street. His estimation of how far away an oncoming car was or how fast it was coming toward him fell considerably short of reality. From that time on, car keysI always drove him to where he wanted to go, but I dreaded the idea of him being on the road when I was not around.

No one wants to turn in their own parent and the freedom that the automobile represents is so attractive that it’s hard to bust them. Ultimately, it’s the liability that sobers up the players in this game. A big lawsuit for driver negligence can wipe out the estate your parents want to leave behind, which is of small consequence compared to the loss of life.

Think about the way your own reflexes and vision have changed over the years and then add 25-30 years to that for your parents. It may scare the hell out of you, but it may be time to go for a ride with Mom and Dad to see if they should still be on the road at all.

Happy motoring!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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