Updated Safe Driving Guidelines for Senior's with Memory Loss

Some things never change, as they say.  And being ready to give up the car keys and stop driving is one of them. Although many of us would be happy to give up driving if we knew we would have a car and driver at our disposal, this is rarely the case when medical conditions enter the picture.  Giving up the car keys can mean giving up your independence.  It brings to reality the changes that are happening in someone's life.

In addition, the situation of giving up the car keys is complicated when a senior is not able to understand the reasoning behind the decision.  The American Academy of Neurology has issued new guidelines for evaluating when it is time to stop driving when you have been diagnosed with dementia.

The driving exam laws vary in each state - some states require in-person driving tests at a certain age and other states do not.  However, that doesn't necessarily fix the problem - my own Great-Grandmother threatened the driving test administrator at age 95 and walked out with her driver's license.  At this point, she was having hit and runs and even drove off and left a state highway patrolman on the side of the highway when she was pulled over for not having a turn signal on.  She informed him that everyone knew where she lived and thus knew she would be turning off the highway at this particular intersection.  Our family only heard about this at the highway patrolman's retirement party.  He was so stunned by the age on her driver's license that it was one of his top stories.  He let her drive away.  But we were lucky that nothing worse happened, in a situation we were not able to control and in a situation which even the state laws did not help control.

As new technology is making our lives easier in so many areas, why not develop something new and innovative for driving tests - - perhaps a computer-simulated driving exam, just like the video games. If you don't wreck the car and make all the right turns you pass and if you run off the road or take too long to react to traffic signals, you fail.  If we can create driving games for amusement, it seems we could create such a computer exam for use at the Department of Motor Vehicles nationwide.

Having a required test would take this problem out of the hands of family members and medical doctors.  Age discrimination laws get in the way of requiring the driving exams at a certain age and certainly if a senior can still drive well at age 99, they should be allowed to do so.  But we need a better system for helping to discern when it is time to stop driving and to enforce it without causing additional conflict with medical doctors and family members.
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