Driving Miss Daisy

Today I want to broach a very sensitive issue and I will be looking for some feedback from you, our loyal followers.

As we age, we start to lose our mental and physical agility and our reflexes start to slow and whether we are prepared to admit it or not, we simply can’t do the things we once did in the past. Of course, none of this applies to me…

Often these failings are not immediately obvious to us, but they are to our families.

Which brings me to a subject my eldest son, Matthew, raised last weekend. Discussions in our household tend to become very noisy and animated affairs as everyone has an opinion (or usually two or three!).

The issue up for discussion was “how do you suggest to a family member it is time to hand in their driver’s licence?”

Somehow I think that this is a more sensitive issue than most when someone is of retirement age, including the need to get engage help around the house, or even suggesting a move to a home that is more suitable and requires less work.

When we were young and impressionable, our ticket to freedom and independence was our driver’s licence. We simply couldn’t wait to turn 17 and often resorted to driving around a paddock or some other equally innocuous vacant piece of land (hopefully legally), as we developed our skills like changing gear on a column gear shift. Of course wet grass was always highly prized as it enabled us to hone our skid control. There was nothing quite like driving a car sideways, totally out of control, hoping it will stop of its own accord before hitting a tree, fence or some other rigid object.

And when the day finally came and we got our licence, we were on top of the world. Nothing could stop us.

As the years passed, there were times when we quietly wished we couldn’t drive, like waiting up until 1 or 2am to go and pick teenage kids up from a party. But we survived and over time, we managed to notch up hundreds of thousands (if not a million or two) kilometres.

But over the years, our reflexes start to slow, and there comes a time when we probably need to hang up our car keys for the last time.

Rarely, I suspect is this a decision made by the driver themselves. It is often raised by family members who have concerns not only for their parent or grandparent, but also for other road users.

For so many mature road users, having a car, and licence to drive still provides independence. Not to be able to drive is unthinkable.

There are many drivers well into their 80s who still manage to navigate our increasingly congested roads safely, on a daily basis. But then I am sure, there are many others who really shouldn’t be driving at all.

I notice that in Western Australia, drivers over the age of 85 had to be retested when renewing their driver’s licence, but this practice has now been discontinued and is only required if recommended by a health professional.

What happens in the other States?

I know that my state, Queensland does not mandate re-sitting a practical driving test, although all drivers over the age of 75 must carry a current medical certificate.

What are your thoughts on this sensitive topic of older drivers? Share your thoughts by posting a comment.

And have you been involved in having a conversation with an elderly relative or friend about handing in their driver’s licence?

How did it go and what recommendations can you make to other readers who may be confronted with the same dilemma?

Tealey and I would welcome your insights.

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