You are driving along when all of a sudden the car beside you edges over into your lane. With no time to make sure the shoulder is clear or even turn on a signal light, you swerve, get in the other lane and hurriedly get around the hazardous vehicle.

As you’re passing, you realize the car is being driven by an elderly person, driving along as if without a care in the world. Think this has happened to most if not all of us at one time or another….and it is extremely frightening.

Now, I’m not saying that people over 65 should not drive. What I am saying is that it is only natural that as you age, health problems may begin to hinder your driving abilities. Some such conditions include dementia, seizures, breathing problems, cataracts or even things like diabetes or arthritis which can disable your reflexes at times. And it is not just the elderly, but anyone who can suffer from any of these conditions. If any of this applies to you, I hope you will give some serious thought on whether you should be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Once you severely injure yourself or someone else or perhaps even kill….there is no turning back, and life for you will never be the same.

After my father’s stroke I read many books on dementia, most of which mentioned driving and how family members were trying to handle this issue. Some children had gone so far as to put sugar in their parent’s carburetor so the car wouldn’t start! They were simply scared of the wrath their parent would bestow upon them if they tried to discuss driving. To give up driving is one more step towards becoming dependent on others. My father was more out to prove his abilities after being released from rehab. I felt physically ill at the thought of his being behind the wheel, but there was nothing I could do, as his family doctor had signed a consent form saying he was capable of driving. His GP had not seen him through any of his stroke/seizure/dementia ordeal and my trying to tell him what I was seeing did no good, as this doctor was arrogant and wasn’t about to let some family member tell him anything.

My next recourse was to talk to his neurologist, and while only family doctors can sign consent forms for licenses, we both felt it couldn’t hurt if he wrote a letter to SGI (our license bureau). I wrote one also, describing his memory, his seizures and hallucinations, complete with a list of possible side effects from the medications he was on. I phoned them at least twice a week, usually getting the typical response that since his family doctor signed, there was really nothing they could do. Ahhh, the frustration!! Finally I had had enough of the utter nonsense and I guess I basically threatened them. I told them that if he gets in an accident, either injuring or killing himself or someone else, I would get a lawyer, show him my letters along with the neurologist’s letters and would gladly help any other injured party in suing by also letting them know how I had warned them.

The next day they suspended his license with the stipulation they would only renew if he could pass a written test and a driving test again.

After four attempts and four failures on the written test, my father finally gave up, much to my relief.

Driving to me is nothing to fool with, and I hope anyone who reads this, whether it be someone with a disability or someone who feels a friend or family member should rethink their driving, gives this more than a passing thought. Is it worth it to one day come home to a phone call saying your loved one has been in a terrible accident just because you were perhaps a bit hesitant to bring up the subject? There are many options one could try, starting with a doctor or trusted minister speaking with them. If that does not work, look into your driving laws. Use and try anything and everything, and be persistent. Laws were meant to be changed and if there is something you don’t like, work at it.

And don’t forget – be nurturing to whomever the person is you are trying to prevent from driving. It is a hard time in life to realize you are not able to do certain things anymore, and any loss of being totally self sufficient to some is quite a setback. Handle with care – and get them to realize a driver’s license does not a person make.

Mary Ann Evans