May 1, 2006
How long should a person be able drive before they're asked to stop, or decide to get out from behind the wheel? It's a difficult question that many elderly drivers will more than likely have to face at some point in their lifetime.
Speaking with several young and old drivers in Charlottesville, they all said that giving up that trusty driver's license is a difficult thing to think about. For one local woman, she said it wasn't too difficult a decision, but she does miss driving around.
Driving in traffic can be bit of a challenge for anyone. One way, Stop, No Turns and then you add watching out for the other drivers on the road. Amanda Brown, 90-years-old, remembers those days very well.
“I use to go out and just explore locally for something to do waste gas, said Brown.
Brown made the decision on her own a year ago not to drive. She says it wasn't easy removing herself from behind the wheel of her car or giving her car keys a rest.
“I preferred to decide not to drive and not have somebody tell me not to drive,” said Brown
In a recent study by the insurance information institute, drivers over 70-years-old made up 11% of all traffic fatalities. 80% of those were during the day.
Gordon Walker is Chief Executive Officer of the Jefferson Area Board for Aging. He says that recommending to someone that they give up driving is a very difficult task to do. It's also something that he says many doctors even find it difficult to recommend.
“The lost of independence and being active almost always means slippage in your mental and physical well-being and that's is the greatest fear I think we all have,” said Walker.,
That independence is what keeps Edward Jones from letting go of his car stirring wheel. At 87-years-old, Jones has cut back on how often he drives. He says if it was left up to a vote that would determine if people over 65 would have to retake a driving test, “I would vote in favor of that I believe, although I think it's very difficult to make decisions on who should drive and who shouldn't.”
Some younger drivers feel the same way as Jones while others have had some reason to think differently.
“Actually I was stopped at a traffic light one time and the woman in front of me was pretty old and she put her car in reverse instead of drive and actually backed into me,” said Kyle Amborn as he speaks about his encounter with an elderly driver. “I had a suburban - she lifted me several feet off the ground and knocked my bumper off.”
While an older driver may have caused the accident with Amborn, there are millions of drivers over 65 who have better driving records than most 25-years-old. One of those is Amanda Brown.
“I've never had a ticket, I never had any trouble with driving a car,” said Brown. "I did it since I was 17 years old."
Currently Virginia does not have any laws stating that elderly drivers will have to give up their driving privileges at anytime.
This Wednesday a State program called 'Grand Driver' will be released from the Virginia Department for the Aging in Richmond. It's main focus will be on driving safety, staying mobile, and remaining independent for seniors.