Testing Elderly Drivers: A Thorny Issue

Nov 3rd, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: For Senior Women

We all come across amazing people in our lives, and amazing senior citizens are no exception. An amazing 95 year old and his daughters recently had an experience we want to tell you about.

Bob (not his real name) has insisted on continuing to drive around his surburban community, and he has insisted on keeping his driver’s license. His daughters became increasingly concerned about his safety with onset of the ‘serious’ stage of dementia. He can no longer recognize grandchildren, has to have new information repeated within a minute or two of already hearing it;

he also repeats himself several times in the course of a short conversation. His long term memory is impaired, but still relatively intact.

Three of the four daughters agreed that the state department of motor vehicles needed to be alerted to the possibility that he needed to be tested on his driving skills, to insure his safety and that of everyone else on the road. A video on elderly drivers one of the daughters reviewed online was helpful in deciding to proceed with the formal enquiry.

Bob was very upset and angry when he received the letter from the state MVD.  He was informed he had two choices: relinquish his license or take the state mandated driving test.  He decided to take the test.  All four daughters agreed that this would satisfy their concern for his driving safety.

One of Bob’s granddaughters arrived to help him practice safe driving skills; on almost a daily basis, they drove the neighborhood focusing on safe stops and turns, driving within the speed limit, parallel parking, observing warning signs and any driving tips that came up in the course of his practice sessions.

The day came when Bob went to the MVD with one of his daughters for the test.  It took about 20 minutes and Bob was asked to do the three-point turn a second time.  That’s the only maneuver he had to repeat.  He passed with flying colors!

Bob now has his license for another year.  Because of the enquiry and his age, Bob will need to repeat the test annually as long as he wants to drive.  His daughters are satisfied with his ability to drive safely, recognizing his life-long safe driving record and his fairly intact long-term memory that helps him continue to drive safely.  It’s one of those great win-win success stories!



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