SIDNEY — When is it time to give up your driving privileges?
“With Prince Philip, who is 97 years, being in an auto crash, you have to ask the question,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. And the prince wasn’t wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash.
“You know as siblings you’re going to have to talk to both parents about them not driving anymore,” he said.”A lot of seniors say when it’s time to stop driving.”
Lenhart related the story of his parents and the decision he and his siblings made concerning them driving.
“It’s a very difficult decision,” said Lenhart. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on the receiving end of the decision or giving the other person the decision family members have made. The decision may be that the person only drives during the daytime. Or that they don’t drive on any long trips.
“You all need to sit down at the kitchen table and talk about it,” he said. If they have to turn the keys over, you have to assure them that someone else will help them do their chores and take them places.”
When the person can no longer drive, said Lenhart, they lose some of their independence.
“My parents were very independent,” he said. “They would drive to go shopping and go to church.”
Lenhart said there are various signs which may alert the person or family member that driving privileges should be changed to stopped. Those signs include changes in vision, the person’s age, change in hearing, slower reflexes, health issues, mobility of limbs and prescribed medicines.
“Are they able to hear OK and recognize sirens?” Lenhart asked. “Your reflexes slow as you get older. Are there health issues where the person can’t turn their neck and head to see all the things around them? Does their prescribed medicine make it unsafe for them to drive?”
Their mental state can also factor into the decision that they need to stop driving, said Lenhart. Does the person drive somewhere and forget how to get home?
There are various warning signs family members can watch for, he said.
“How are they changing lanes when they are driving?” he asked. “Are the drifting in and out of traffic? Are they driving too fast or too slow? Is it hard for them to judge distances? Are they braking suddenly and do they forget to use their turn signals?”
If the driver is getting into numerous “fender benders,” that might be a sign that they might need to stop driving.
“My mother ran over a stop sign at the end of their street two times in one week,” said Lenhart. “Watch for new dents and scratches on their cars. In a small community, someone may tell you that your mother ran a stop sign. Or they run into garage doors.”
Lenhart said when it’s time for the “talk” you need to reassure you parents that you love them and care about their safety.
“Reassure them that you will be there to help them,” he said. “And that other people will also help them. Tell them that losing their driving privileges is not the end of the world for them.”
Lenhart said there are several ways in which driving privileges can be removed from an unsafe driver. If the person won’t accept what their children or siblings are telling them, the family member can go to the BMV and sign an affidavit to have the driver retake their driving test.
A doctor, he said, can also sign the same affidavit. Law enforcement can also request the BMV retest the driver.
“It’s a difficult decision to make,” said Lenhart. “My brothers and sisters volunteered me to talk to our parents. Dad gave up his license voluntarily. Mother needed a little bit of encouragement.
“The last thing you want is for them to get into a crash and hurt someone else or themselves,” said Lenhart.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.