The has a program that puts out online tips for how to tell an elderly family member that they should probably stop driving.
Neat tips, too, like don’t bring the issue up at a family gathering, don’t threaten or bully, be calm and respectful, things like that.
Useful tips, but I suggest if none of that works, try being blunt.
Tell them they can’t have the keys, and they should get an Uber account.
I have one more tip for those who have a senior citizen in the family and might need to ask for those keys soon: Call or write your state senators and representatives and tell them elderly drivers should be tested. On the road. In an actual car.
I know it’s a touchy issue. I’ve dealt with it in my family, as many of you in South Florida have. And the issue popped up again recently when an 81-year-old driver in hit two people when she smashed into an ATM. One person’s leg had to be amputated, and police say the driver of the car might have mistaken the accelerator for the brake.
We see this constantly in South Florida — an elderly driver mistakes the gas pedal for the brake and rams into the front of a building. Sometimes there is only damage to the car and the building. Other times, the result is much worse.
And yet, our lawmakers don’t have the guts to even hint that senior drivers should be tested.
Right now, if you are a Florida resident 80 or older and your license needs renewal, you can get a new one by passing a vision test.
That’s it. A vision test. Not a test of reflexes. Not a test to see if you know which is the gas pedal. Not a test to determine if you actually know how to drive.
Just a vision test. And then you don’t have to mess with it again for six years.
I’ve mellowed a bit on this topic in recent years, maybe because I am actually not as young as I used to be. Amazing but true.
I used to believe drivers should be tested every few years when they reach 70. Now, the state says 80. Fine.
But test the drivers. Make them get out on the street with a modest road test. If they have the ability to drive and should be given another license, fine.
But it’s not done because nobody wants to upset seniors, who vote.
I know plenty of seniors are fine drivers. Many would have no problem with a road test. But most would admit their reflexes aren’t as good at 80 as they were at, say, 50.
Florida has an estimated 750,000 drivers over 80 on the road. Do all of them have the reflexes and basic driving skills needed to be on the road? I doubt it, but we don’t know because they don’t get tested. The state just says if your vision is OK, here’s a license.
That’s insanity. The state should test drivers 80 and older, which would not only make our roads safer, but would take the onus off anyone who is trying to convince an elderly family member to give up the keys.
If they can’t pass a driving test, it is the state telling them they can’t drive, not you.
But no lawmaker would dare suggest this. So we’ll still have a lot of senior drivers wondering if the gas pedal is the brake.
Gary Stein can be reached at gstein, or. Twitter