Guest Editorial

  • Wednesday, April 24, 2013

One of the toughest decisions that a family can make is deciding that their loved one no longer has the physical or mental skills to operate a car on his or her own – and it’s not very hard to figure out why. 
Driving represents freedom and independence, and giving up the keys means giving up the ability to handle basic errands, such as shopping or going to the doctor.
As we age, changes occur in physical functioning, vision, perception, and processing abilities that can make driving unsafe. While these changes are inevitable, they occur at different rates in each individual, and age alone is not a good indicator of driving skills.
When making an assessment of your driving abilities, there are several different sources that you can turn to for helpful information.  
The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (www.driver-ed.org or 1-866-672-9466) offers many informative tips to assess driving skills.  The site also features a search function that provides you with driver rehabilitation specialists in your area. 
Seniors or family members who have noticed any of the following warning signs may want to consider a driver evaluation:
• Trouble observing signs, signals, or other traffic
• Needing help or instructions from passengers
• Slow or poor decisions
• Easily frustrated or confused
• Frequently getting lost (including familiar areas)
• Inappropriate driving speeds (too fast or too slow)
• Poor road position or wide turns
• Accidents or near misses
In addition, many professional physical or occupational therapists, who specialize in rehabilitating individuals disabled by stroke, accident, or other injury to regain their driving skills, offer their services to individuals whose driving skills may be waning simply due to old age.  
These services include routine assessments and, when needed, rehabilitative therapy. Check with your local medical center to see if they offer any driver rehabilitation programs.
Another excellent program for older adult drivers is the AARP Driver Safety Program (www.aarp.org/dsp). 
The six-hour course helps older drivers improve their driving skills, avoid accidents and other traffic violations, brush up on their driving-related knowledge, and work on their defensive-driving techniques.
Due to a change in state law supported by AARP South Carolina, all licensed drivers (25 and older) in South Carolina who complete the course are able to receive a discount on their automobile insurance. For more information on how to register for the AARP Driver Safety Program, contact AARP South Carolina toll-free by calling 1-888-227-7669.  There is a small fee for course materials.
For more information, contact the Lt. Governor’s Of­fice on Aging at 800-868-9095 or visit www.aging.sc.gov.

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