FYI Daily

Getting Someone to Quit Driving -- BEFORE It's Too Late

Last updated:

March 13, 2012
Park Anywhere

Remember Gordon and Norma Yeager, the couple who died within an hour of each other, holding hands? Turns out that their deaths followed a traffic accident that Gordon Yeager had caused by running a stop sign -- hitting another vehicle and turning another long-married husband, Charles Clapsaddle, into a caregiver for his wife of 38 years, who was terribly injured in the accident, reports Emily Yoffe in Slate. So far, Barbara Clapsaddle has racked up $250,000 in medical bills.

What's more, the 94-year-old Yeager had failed a road test at his local motor vehicle division just five days before the fatal wreck. No worries: In Iowa, flunking drivers are given a suspension notice and a temporary permit"”they have 30 days to retake the test and can do so as many as three times.

Call it the problem with no easy answers: How to get a dangerous older driver off the road.

There's the ideal way it should happen, as prescribed by state driving laws covering the elderly and by advice to families about what to say to unsafe drivers and what to do -- but sometimes, sadly, there's the way things actually turn out.

"There's no clear personal, societal, or policy solution for what to do about older drivers," Slate notes. Older drivers are generally no worse than younger generations, at least until the 70s, when accident rates rise. (Those over 70 drive half as many miles as midlifers.) Often, license-renewal restrictions help weed out those with physical limitations. Many older drivers give up the keys voluntarily.

But then there are the tough cases.

"Drivers may continue to drive without a driver's license, car registration, or insurance coverage," warns The Hartford insurance company. And that's after measures like disabling the car, filing down the keys, and canceling the vehicle registration are tried. Some persistent wanna-be drivers steal keys and cars. Or families can't bear to confront an elder or to limit his or her independence. In one family, reporting a determined-driving dad to DMV for driving on a suspended license would send him to jail because of a prior record, and they say they can't bear that.

Sometimes enlisting a physician's help doesn't work, either -- as in the case of the 85-year-old doc who told his patient's son he'd only report the man if the patient himself agreed!

Said one son: "We just live with our fingers crossed."

Too bad for everyone else on the road.

What's the answer? How persistent should families, doctors, lawmakers, and interested others be about getting bad drivers off the road -- and, as always, which drivers, and how?

Image by Flickr user Timothy J, used under a Creative Commons license.