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  • Seniors: When To Turn Over The Car Keys

    Seniors: When To Turn Over The Car Keys

    Knowing when to turn over the car keys is an extremely difficult decision to make. Just thinking about making the change can be overwhelming, and many seniors panic at the thought of losing their freedom.

    You probably use your car to run errands, go shopping, visit friends, attend church, or just enjoy a sunny ride. The richness of your days depends on your ability to get around. However, when your safety is at stake, you need to be honest with yourself. Are you ready to turn over the car keys?

    Self Assessment

    Only you really know how you feel when you are behind the wheel. Are you beginning to get nervous in driving situations that used to be effortless? Perhaps you find yourself anxious when merging with traffic.

    Another sign that you may be ready to stay off the roads is your reaction time. Studies show that as we all age, our reaction time slows down. And the statistics used every year by state motor vehicle departments and safety associations link reaction time with crashes.

    Assess your reaction time and be honest with yourself. Are you responding quickly enough when something unexpected happens? Have you been close to hitting another car or an animal in the road? Do you stop for pedestrians?

    Family Assessment

    You might need to consider giving up your drivers license if your family and friends keep telling you that your driving is not as good as it used to be. People who love you are going to be worried about your safety.

    If a daughter, son, spouse, brother, or sister shares with you concern about your driving, be sure to listen carefully. Ask for specific examples of what they consider bad driving. Maybe they cite a driving habit you developed years ago. But of greater concern to you should be examples they give that you, too, consider evidence of unsafe driving.

    For example, if your spouse describes a situation where you nearly ran into the rear end of another car you may agree this is an instance of poor driving. And if you notice a pattern in the feedback you get from family and friends, then you should consider getting a professional opinion.

    Professional Assessment

    Driver education, driver training, and even driver assessment services are available in every state. If you are considering turning in your drivers license, track down a professional driving instructor and ask for a professional assessment.

    It is widely accepted that age changes your senses. How many of us have needed glasses once we get into our forties? And our hearing does seem to decline the more we age. Safe driving depends on alertness, which is critically connected to your senses.

    Other physical changes could be affecting your ability to drive. Have you noticed changes in your ability to concentrate? Do not rule out the effects of medication. There are many pills that can make you sleepy or foggy.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that fatigue, whether from medications or lack of sleep, causes at least 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 injuries annually, and that the injuries tend to be more severe in drowsiness-related cases.

    Other Things to Consider

    In addition to thinking about how safe you feel behind the wheel, you may be pressed into considering the financial side of driving. It is very expensive to keep a car on the road. Most states require liability insurance, which can cost hundreds of dollars each year.

    The cost of vehicle registration can be expensive. Repairs and fuel are other financial considerations when it comes to the feasibility of keeping your driver license. And finally, there may be other considerations such where you keep the car and the climate where you live. (Are you up to shoveling it out of the snow all winter long?).

    Adjusting to Changes

    When you give up your drivers license, or even just your car, the changes to your life are tremendous. Every day you may feel like you cannot get to the places you would like to go.

    Sure, people will drive you to church or the grocery store. But what if you just want to go out poking around gift shops? Or maybe you wanted to spend the morning at a favorite park or golf club. Who is going to spend hours driving you around? It is not always easy synchronizing your schedule with another routine.

    Well, in addition to friends and family who love you, there are organized driving pools in many communities today. The number of drivers giving up their cars or licenses is growing, and that means creative solutions will be developed to help solve the burgeoning transportation issue.

    And in the end, your decision to give up the car keys will come down to driver safety. We all share the road―if any one driver is not alert and driving defensively, then the potential for an accident increases for us all.

    Resources and Further Reading

    If you want to learn more about driving pools, check with your local Retirement Association. Church groups also often provide transportation services, and your city government can introduce you to public transportation.

    The NHTSA is a good resource for information on driving and aging as is the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. You can also find services by state to help you with carpooling and drive sharing.