When is it time to hang up the keys?
91-year-old decides to give up driving after daughter, husband show concern
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – You may have seen it or you may be dealing with it in your family: elderly drivers who perhaps should no longer be behind the wheel.
According to AAA, older Americans are driving longer than previous generations. And because of the baby boom, there are now more elderly drivers than ever.
In the early 1970s, less than 50 percent of Americans 65 and older held a driver's license. In 2010, 84 percent in that same age range had a license. New research shows some of them probably shouldn't still be driving.
Helen Yeatropoulos is 91 years old. She stays busy, remains involved in her church, and takes care of her home and her husband of 68 years.
Yeatropoulos has been driving since she was 15, but her daughter wants to put the brakes on that, especially because of her mother's spotty driving record the past few years.
"She's bumped in to things. She's had people hit her; she's hit people," said Sophia Mouzakis.
"Over the past two, three years, there have been seven incidents."
Yeatropoulos doesn't feel she's a danger on the road, but has considered giving up driving, "only because my husband worries."
Ron Page, of the Northeast Florida Safety Council, has been teaching driving safety classes for 27 years. He says older drivers are better drivers in some ways because they're conscious of their limitations.
Page says studies prove teen drivers are the worst drivers, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that drivers after age 65 are involved in more crashes measured by the property damage and collision claims they file.
"The numbers are going to increase and the problems going to get worse before it gets better," Page said. "The biggest problem comes with 85 and older. Up until that point, they're pretty safe drivers."
One of the hardest problems for children of elderly divers is getting their parents to give up the keys.
Page said you'll know when the time is right.
"If they've had a lot of close calls, if they've had more than the usual amount of fender benders, I think it's time for an intervention," Page said.
"I don't want something catastrophic to take place before she decides maybe her skill set is not what it needs to be," said Mouzakis.
During the course of our interview, Yeatropoulos decided she'd give up driving.
For this busy, independent woman it's going to be tough to adjust to life in the passenger seat.
"All my life I've been a chief, not an Indian. Chairman of everything. And I'm sorry I'm not able to do what I used to do," she said.
If you've got aging parents, experts say you've got to talk about the possibility that they won't be able to drive before it actually happens. Also talk with their doctor if any medication they take may impair them behind the wheel.
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