Keeping your driving privilege for longer.
By Holly K., CDE, member of CDEA, president of ac D.A.R.E. Inc
© ac D.A.R.E. inc. For free distribution only. For a permission to distribute, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- "Hi, I would like to request a road test for my Dad. I am concerned about his driving".
- "I am sorry, but we can only conduct a test if the doctor sends him".
- "But his doctor seems to be ok with him driving, it's me who is concerned. What am I supposed to do - I am no professional, I don't know if it's OK for my Dad to continue driving. I am worried, though. He is 74!".
A real-life conversation that took place at one of Calgary motor vehicle registries between an examiner and a concerned daughter of an elderly man.
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Part of a job of a driver examiner is to conduct the road tests for senior drivers upon their doctors request. To me, it was probably the hardest challenge of my profession. If a senior driver did not succeed on this test, I was the one to declass his or her license to a learners stage, with all the restrictions, including the one where they were not allowed to operate the vehicle without supervision.
There is no doubt in my mind, that the timely revelation of the potentially unsafe drivers is one of the most important factors in contributing to overall driver safety on Alberta roads. However, what I see to be more important, is the timely prevention of becoming an unsafe driver.
There are a few tools available for the early revelation of decline in someone's ability to continue driving safely as the person ages. There are senior driver refresher courses offered by almost every driving school, there are online guides for self-testing, and other options to help the person understand if it is time for them to start being concerned about their driving. One of the newest tools available will be described later on in this article.
The problem is, all of us sooner or later forget that driving is not a right, but a privilege and this privilege happens to be a very demanding one. Therefore, not many of us will be ready to admit to ourselves that we may start to experience difficulties in maintaining safe driving habits at a certain age. The privilege of being able to drive is one of the privileges that deliver us freedom. Freedom is something none of us would ever give up without a fight.
Unfortunately, the fight for the privilege to drive may become a very difficult one to win, when someone's ability to drive safely is being questioned on many levels and by many members of the society, including their immediate family. Even if the previous driving record indicates that a certain senior driver has not presented any dangers to fellow drivers by maintaining accident- and ticket- free driving history, it is just the factor of aging that arises the concern, since naturally, with age we are all expected to decline in our ability to be alert, comprehend and act fast. We are all humans.
To some, this timeline may come as early as in their sixties, to some it will not be anything worth worrying about even past the 90 mark. Many factors could influence this time milestone - a stroke, a serious illness, prescribed medications, etc.
So, let's go back to the conversation I quoted at the very beginning. Let's say I were to take that gentleman for the road test. Let's say he demonstrated safe driving habits and did not raise any serious concerns about his ability to drive according to existing laws and regulations in Alberta. Let's say there was one error in his near perfect driving, - when turning in intersection within the playground zone he forgot he was still in a low speed section of the road and sped up, thus automatically being disqualified for speeding. I have conducted tons of tests in different age groups. This happens a lot - to novice drivers and those who are upgrading their class of license alike. None of those drivers will be declassed in their privileges - novices will stay at their learners stage, and the rest will just maintain their existing class of license. However, the senior making the same mistakes will automatically lose a majority of factors in their driving privilege. Where is fairness?
There is still another chance for a senior driver to try and take the test, that's true. But why do we not get concerned about what this driver will feel on the way home with a limited license. What would they think? "I know this stuff, how could I miss that!" May be, their own guilt trip will be worsened by their family (children, younger siblings) saying "That's ok. See, I was right - you are getting too old to drive!" How many of these people will actually be strong enough to take the news calmly and pursue getting their license back by taking another test, refreshing their knowledge of rules or even taking a senior refresher course?
Do you see my point? Why jeopardize the person's confidence by severe measures when it can be done in a manner that will help them either make their own decision or to agree with the one of their loved ones!
Early evaluation is the key here!
Concerned about your own driving now that you are over 70? Concerned about your own driving after a stroke? Concerned about your Dad's driving? Request an independent evaluation - through a company like ours.
The evaluator (in our case a certified driver examiner, the first and the last witness of anyone's driving ability), will take your parent on an extended route, which will include all or very near to all (sometimes it is difficult to find a traffic circle in a certain part of the city) driving challenges. The evaluator will not comment on your parents driving during the session. The interference is required only when the action of the driver becomes a severe safety concern jeopardizing the situation on the road and affecting other members of traffic. At the end of the session, the evaluator will provide you with the detailed list of driving errors that took place during the session. He or she then will proceed with a recommendation, which should be very helpful in the future.
There are so many different solutions available, we will run out of space here if we listed them all! But we are sure there is one for every particular individual.
In some cases where the driver demonstrates the overall loss of safe driving ability, the evaluator will be the first instance to begin the process of adaptation to the fact that this could be the time to hang the keys. Our evaluators are specifically trained in being able to explain to the person in a way that will not scare or humiliate them, why they should consider giving up their driving privilege and understand that they are many alternatives to driving helping to keep their freedom.
Please note, that our company is in no way associated with the Drive Able, since we do not provide the computer testing for drivers with cognitive disorders. That's their business and we would be glad to refer anyone to them should they need this type of assessment.
Our goal is to help senior drivers to maintain their driving privilege for longer, staying safe and confident. We pledge to do our best. After all, this is how the idea of this exciting new program came to us. Because we care.
"Dare to Drive Safe!"®