How old is too old to drive? - KMSP-TV

How old is too old to drive?

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When is it time to give up your keys and let someone else do the driving?  For many people, that's a tough decision to make.  According to AAA, 37 million drivers will be 65 years old or older by 2020, and 90 percent of them will still be licensed to drive.   Getting older doesn't automatically mean you should stop driving, but it does mean that a potentially difficult conversation may have to be had.

Rev. John Brown, Sr. knows how hard that decision could be.  He's a World War II veteran who is one of the distinguished Monford Point Marines.  He was even awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  But what might be just as impressive to many people?  At 88 years old, he still drives.  

Brown's son, John, Jr., tells FOX 5 his father still drives to the grocery store, the cleaners, and sometimes, he drives on dates.  He says he closely monitors his dad's driving, but so does the Reverend.  He tells us he no longer likes to drive at night because he doesn't like the bright lights.

But both father and son know that one day, they'll have to have what many call "the conversation" when they make a decision about when John, Sr. will have to give up his keys.  

Emory University clinical assistant professor Carolyn Clevenger, who specializes in Gerontology, says age is just a number, and instead, older drivers should focus on their ability.  She says vision, mobility, and cognition are all factors to consider when making the difficult decision.  

According to Clevenger, good vision should include peripheral and depth perception, and the ability to plan and execute movement based on what's going on around them.  She also says while certain limitations can be accommodated, you should pay attention to their driving history, including accidents or unexplained scratches and dents on the car.

And when the time comes to take the keys, Clevenger says many families simply hide the keys or disable the car, but you can also get creative.  She says some people create a contract years in advance, writing out on paper that when they tell their elderly family members to stop driving, there won't be an argument.

If that plan doesn't work, Clevenger says you should plan to have a series of conversations, and give it some time.  But if all else fails and the case is extreme, you can choose to involve the police. Certain conditions-- like macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or a history of seizures-- mean you cannot legally drive.  If you're having trouble getting the keys relinquished voluntarily from an elderly family member, you can request what is called a behind-the-wheel driving evaluation.

Rev. Brown tells FOX 5 he'll give up his keys when he's 95, but his son says it could be sooner.

For more tips and information on how to decide when it's time to give up driving, click here for a more details from Emory University's website.


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