The dreaded time has come. The time that we all fear, and that signals the end of our independence as
we know it; the possibility of surrendering our driver’s license.
Maybe you have had another fender bender, driven through the garage door, received a ticket for driving too slowly, or had such slow reflexes that friends and family are afraid to drive with you. Factors such as deteriorating vision, poor hearing, effects of medication and slow reaction times are often cited as causes for decreased driver safety in seniors.
Often, there is a time when we realize on our own that we aren’t the safe driver that we once were, and we don’t want to risk hurting ourselves or others. But, life isn’t always that black and white. Giving up our keys and car represent much more than a means to get to the grocery store. Not being able to drive means being dependent on others for our daily existence. Independence and emotional issues, wrapped around the ability to get from here to there, are sticking points that seniors are often unwilling to give up. Having lost loved ones, changes in day to day autonomy, seniors typically want to control what they can still control. Independence is one of the last things that they are willing to let go. What do you do when either you or a loved one questions their ability to safely drive?
Initially, conversation is best. This discussion most likely will take time and span several weeks, or months perhaps. Understanding that giving up their means to shop, socialize and attend church, it is important to come up with solutions. That may mean that the family or a caregiver will begin to become more involved in the senior’s life and provide some or all of the transportation. However, if the driving situation is critical and there is a clear need to address it immediately, New York State has a program called Driver Re-evaluation Program.
Whether it be the police who notify New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or the physician, or a concerned individual, there is a path to be followed to either keep a driver’s license or to have it revoked. The purpose of the New York State DMV Driver Re-evaluation Program is to allow a driver to show that he or she is qualified to drive. The criteria for making such a decision, to either revoke or allow a driver to keep their license, is based on ability only, and is not based on age. When DMV receives a re-evaluation form for an individual, the Medical Review Unit of DMV forwards the form to the DMV Testing and Investigation Unit which determines if there is a reason to reevaluate the driver. If there is a valid reason, the driver is contacted by mail to come to the DMV office for an interview. A vision test, or a Vision Test Report form (MV-619) completed by a vision care professional, is required for the interview. The letter from DMV may also require the individual to bring a Physicians Statement form (MV-80), a registered and inspected vehicle, and a driver with a valid driver license. If the MV-80 indicates that the driver is not medically fit to drive, the driver’s license will ben suspended. If the Physician’s Statement does not indicate that the individual is unfit to drive, the license examiner can also require that the driver take a road sign/written test and a driving skills test. If the individual fails the vision test, or the road sign/written test, the driver’s license is suspended until the driver can pass the required test. Alternatively, if the individual passes the above-mentioned tests, he or she is free to drive once more.
Though we know aging comes with physical and emotional challenges, independence is one ideal that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Conversations about driving should take place early, as it represents an activity that provides for independence, yet also can pose a threat to the safety of the individuals and others on the road.
No one wants to have to give up their keys. A certain anxiety can come with wondering how you or your loved one may make it to their next appointment. Daughter for Hire is happy to offer transportation and assistance as one of their many services. When you’re thinking it’s time to hand over the keys, ask Daughter for Hire how they can help make the transition easier.