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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


The driving end game

The time to quit driving arrives for everyone.  The decision to hang up the keys does not come as readily, however, as the symptoms indicating that the time has come.

For starters, drivers with an advanced age or medical condition impairing their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle have usually enjoyed the freedom and convenience of their personal transportation for many decades.  But when events such as close calls, minor scrapes, honks from other drivers, difficulty with maneuvers, or police encounters become frequent, it may be time for loved ones to intervene.

Since ending driving is a difficult family issue, I have even suggested that a maximum driving age (86, for example) might make sense.  It would allow everyone to know exactly when the driving privilege is going to end.  Sure, everyone’s effect of age on things like reflexes, vision and mental concentration differs, but we let people begin driving with greatly varying abilities at the set age of 16.  There would still be plenty of inept drivers aged 16 to 85, but it would ease the battle of taking the keys from those 86 and over.

If anyone thinks they are driving as well as they ever have at that age, they are likely fooling themselves.  It’s inarguable that reflexes, vision, and mental sharpness deteriorate for all people at some point.  Traffic accidents become a lesser cause of death at upper ages, but it’s not because octogenarians are better drivers, it’s due to other medical issues taking over then.

I’m unsure of the answer to the “end game” dilemma, but I have talked with many families experiencing mighty struggles getting their elderly loved ones to seek alternative transportation.

The main reason the topic is so important is not only because of the safety of the aging driver, but that of those he or she drives among.  Obviously, a two-ton vehicle becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of someone who has lost competence.

One reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, has added “fuel to the fire” on the topic by noting that some of these affected drivers are buying and operating large RVs and motor homes.  This reader has a relative nearing the age of 90 with multiple health problems who bought a long motor home and a car to tow behind it.

There is much concern within the family, as this individual had already relinquished driving a car due to age-related physical and mental conditions!  The concerned reader is also a proponent of mandatory Department of Licensing re-testing at certain ages for any driving, and cannot believe there is not some testing requirement for driving large motor homes at any age.

Situations like the one above are quite typical.  I have had correspondence from many readers regarding concerns about age-impaired drivers operating not only average-sized vehicles, but wishing to explore the open road in huge “homes on wheels.”

I’m quite certain that I will resist giving up my driving privilege like so many others — that’s why a set age to surrender one’s license might be easier for everyone once people got used to it.

The best scenario is to be open-minded and honest about recognizing the effects age may be having on your ability to drive successfully.  I know some drivers who have ended driving because they had “too much to lose” by fouling up.  To me, those are the smart ones.   

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at