Older drivers. Safe? Not safe? A perennial question andstory for families, legislatures and ultimately the media. Each accidenttriggers passion, a call for policy, but mostly a call for help. Unfortunately,the debate still centers on age. As has been posted here before and incountless research publications – birthdays do not kill, health conditions do.
Whatever the cause, the concern is real for older drivers,their families and policy makers. There are few resources for any of thestakeholders. Older drivers who put away the keys do not lose a license; theylose a life of independence and freedom. And, for the nearly 70 percent ofAmericans who live in rural and suburban areas, with few transportationalternatives to the car, they become isolated, alone and dependent on friendsand family for subsistence transportation to the doctor’s office or grocerystore.
Families have fears. Many legitimate. Families are the firstline of safety for a driver of any age. Family members that live near and seethe driver everyday (not the adult child who calls up from several states away tosay ‘happy birthday and have you quitdriving yet’?) are the best equipped to see changes in health, medication,behavior and ultimately function. Sitting in the car with the driver is thebest way to see how they are really driving and the best way to ensure theolder driver that you care and that your judgment is based upon firsthandobservation not your estimate of what is too old to drive.
The Hartford Advance 50 Team & the MIT AgeLab havedeveloped a number of resources for families to address the hard and painful drivingdecision. The conversation that no one wants to have but many will. The followinglinks lead to guides that are based upon solid research and have beendistributed nationwide.
The MIT AgeLab and the New England University Transportation Center have worked withThe Hartford Financial Services Group and their Advance 50 Team for more than a decade. That research partnership has produced several public education guides that provide valuable insight and instruction to older adults and their families on safe driving and the painful discussion of driving cessation. Links to these free publications are below:
ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer visited the MITAgeLab to learn more about older drivers, emerging technologies and the tensionbetween freedom and safety. As you view the piece you should note that theolder gentleman who is featured in the story is indeed elderly but also avictim of Parkinson’s disease. The ambiguity of the driving debate often andunfortunately confuses age with disease.
Click here to view the ABC World News Tonight: Families on the Brink