Receiving a driver’s license is a rite of passage. It symbolizes freedom, independence, and hopefully responsibility to drive safely. When someone’s age, addiction, or distraction affects that ability to drive safely, the family and often the police have to step in to take away the keys. Although it’s a no-brainer when it comes to protecting the safety of both the driver and others it can be a complicated issue.
I know there are those who feel there should be an age when someone is no longer allowed to drive, but I disagree with that because we all age differently. If someone is driving dangerously or has impaired vision because of age the driver might need to surrender the keys. I know how difficult this decision is because you are taking away the freedom to travel, but you have to consider general safety. I grew up in a small town and there was a woman in her nineties who drove a car that looked more like a tank. She could barely see over the steering wheel. One day, she pulled into my dad’s gas station, the attendant filled her car with gas, and as she was leaving she hit a car that was on the side for repairs. She didn’t even know she had hit the car. She headed out and drove down the road. This was a regular occurrence because the mechanic turned to my dad and said, “I’ll take care of that.”
Addiction can impair driving judgment. My husband battled alcohol addiction, and he often says he is lucky he did not kill someone while on the road. He told me he was often drunk coming home from the airport after a business trip. One of the issues in this situation is that many people refuse to turn over the keys to a designated driver because they are sure they can handle it. What can we do to keep people whose senses are affected off the road before someone is hurt?
Distracted drivers can be as dangerous as a driver who is under the influence. We have all been sitting at the light when it changes and the driver in front doesn’t move until someone honks. Think of all the distractions we face. We are looking at GPS, incoming messages, changing the radio, watching what is happening around us, children in the car, and we are thinking of a million things. I have a family member who is a very distracted driver. He has driven through red lights because he was lost in thought, he feels he needs to make eye contact with you while he is speaking to you, he has run over curbs, and he likes to stare out the window at the scenery. He is an accident waiting to happen.
So what should the criteria be for when to take away the keys?