When is it time to stop driving? It’s a tough decision which requires your thoughtfulness and courage.
No one wants to give up the freedom and convenience of driving. Mature Americans (65 and older) prefer private vehicles over all other forms of transportation. Drivers 65 and older take more than 80% of their trips in their own vehicles.
If you’re unsure about your present driving performance, ask a trusted friend or family member about what they have observed, and if they might monitor your driving for a brief period.
Of course, with all those years where you have exercised your privilege to drive, the underlying responsibility for safe driving and self-monitoring to protect yourself and others has also always been present. As we age, that underlying responsibility looms larger and becomes more prevalent. It’s just a fact of life we must accept and handle responsibly.
At age 65 and beyond, what are some of the questions we ought to be asking in order to assess our status as a safe older driver?
In the past few months have you:
1.Suffered a stroke, heart attack or diminished eyesight?
2.Experienced difficulty in negotiating sharp turns and intersections?
3.Hesitated over right-of-way decisions or situations you once took for granted?
4.Been surprised by the sudden presence of other vehicles or pedestrians?
5.Received negative feedback from other drivers?
6.Become lost on familiar routes?
7.Been cited for traffic violations or found at fault in crashes?
If you have answered any of these questions in the affirmative, it may be time to consider moving from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat!
What follows are some additional thoughts that will help you review of your present driving status:
• I get lost while driving.
• My friends and family members say they are worried about my driving.
• Other cars seem to appear out of nowhere.
• I have trouble seeing signs in time to respond to them.
• Other drivers drive too fast.
• Other drivers often honk at me.
• Driving stresses me out.
• After driving, I feel tired.
• I have had more “near misses” lately.
• Busy intersections bother me.
• Left-hand turns make me nervous.
• The glare from oncoming headlights bothers me.
• My medication makes me dizzy or drowsy.
• I have trouble turning the steering wheel.
• I have trouble pushing down on the gas pedal or brakes.
• I have trouble looking over my shoulder when I back up.
• I have been stopped by the police for my driving recently.
• People will no longer accept rides from me.
• I don’t like to drive at night.
• I have trouble parking lately.
If any of these situations apply to you, driving may be too risky for you, your friends, your family and the general public.
A recent Hawaii Supreme Court case, McKenzie v. Hawaii Permanente Medical Group, Inc., 98 Hawaii 296, (Hawaii 2002) has a potentially important bearing on Arcadia as a corporation and on all of our senior drivers who live at Arcadia and have a Residence Agreement with Arcadia.
In the McKenzie case, the Hawaii Supreme Court held that a physician does owe a duty to non-patient third parties who are injured in an automobile accident caused by an adverse reaction to medication prescribed by the physician who negligently failed to warn his/her patient driver that the medication may impair driving ability, and where the circumstances are such that the reasonable patient could not have been expected to be aware of the risk without the physician’s warning.
This 2002 ruling raises serious implications for Arcadia since Arcadia is bound annually to assess each resident’s “functional” ability. It seems clear that, at the very least, Arcadia has a duty to warn a resident that driving while impaired due to aging and/or a medical condition could cause injury to oneself and, possibly, to a third party.
In this regard, the following policy will be observed at Arcadia:
When Arcadia recognizes through a functional assessment, performed in accord with regulations to which Arcadia is subject, that, in Arcadia’s opinion, an Arcadia resident may be at risk to operate a motor vehicle, Arcadia shall notify the resident and the resident’s physician that Arcadia advises that the resident be evaluated for safe operation of a motor vehicle, and that driving while impaired due to aging and/or a medical condition could cause injury to oneself and, possibly, to a third party.
We need the help and cooperation of every resident as we explore and review the “driving” issue. One of the responsibilities of aging in place deals with “driving”. We must work together in this important matter, since no one ever wants to be the cause of needless hurt or injury to oneself or another.