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Drive for Safety: When should seniors stop driving?

5:46 PM, Feb 29, 2012   |    comments
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YARMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Experts say in a couple of years Maine's 65 and older population will reach twenty percent. that means the rate of accidents involving seniors will continue to rise.

But deciding when elderly drivers should turn in their car keys remains a difficult and emotional issue. It's something Majorie Perkins never takes for granted.

"It's very important, it really is I do volunteer work and I couldn't do that. it's m life really driving," said Majorie Perkins..

This 87-year old widow drives five to six days every week. But most importantly it helps her maintain her independence.

Perkins has never had an accident or a ticket. This grandmother is in good health and doesn't have vision problems. Still, Perkins worries about losing her driving privileges because of her age.

While research shows around the age of 65 drivers face a heightened risk of being involved in an accident, experts say age is not the sole indicator of driving ability. Dr. Daniel Onion is a geriatric specialist. He says physical disabilities, mental illness, medications, loss of vision or frailty may require a senior to 'retire' from driving.

He says the majority of people who have to stop driving -- do so voluntarily. Only a small number of seniors aren't willing to give up the keys and it becomes a very difficult issue for the driver's family and friends.

 

"People don't know what to do and then if someone is cognitively impaired, do you take away the keys? Do you disable the car? Do you just talk them into it. It's only a small percentage," said Dr. Onion.

In Maine drivers 65 and older have to renew their diver's licenses every four years. They also must undergo a vision test every time they get their license renewed. But it doesn't detect physical problems or cognitive awareness.

AAA offers 'Driving Assessment Tests on it's website, http://www.aaaseniors.com/free-resources/driving-assessment-tools

AARP also offers a Driver Safety Program for seniors, you can go to http://www.aarp.org.

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