When my father died, it was almost a relief, because it meant we wouldn’t be having The Talk.
The talk I’m referring to has nothing to do with birds and bees. It’s that other discussion—the one about Dad’s driving.
By the time my dad was in his seventies, he’d already had two cataract surgeries, a failed retinal reattachment—and a serious collision with a truck. When he mentioned one day that a young friend had asked him to pick up her son after school, I almost choked.
Like many children of elderly drivers, I had dreaded The Talk and put it off, hoping for the best. When Dad passed away in his sleep at seventy-seven, keys on the dresser and car safely stowed in the garage, grief wasn’t the only emotion I felt.
I was forty-three then; I’m sixty-five now. I don’t know when my turn is coming, but I know it will. I’ve always had poor depth perception, and it’s getting worse as I age. I had a “lazy eye” surgically corrected as a child and never developed binocular vision. Today I reach into cupboards and come out with the wrong item. So far my occasional driving misjudgments have been confined to parking attempts.
For now, I’m planning to buy a smaller car. I hope I’ll know when to turn in my keys.
So you can imagine my excitement when I picked up last Sunday’s Cincinnati Enquirer and read Krista Ramsey’s article about a program called Beyond Driving with Dignity. It has been offered in Cincinnati since 2011, but it’s spreading throughout the United States and Canada.
Matt Gurwell, a retired Ohio State Highway patrolman, founded the program in Cleveland in 2008. In his twenty-four years on the force, he had delivered hundreds of death notifications to families of crash victims, including older drivers. Gurwell, now CEO of Keeping Us Safe, parent company for the BDD program, developed a curriculum, workbook, cognition and driving exercises to help senior citizens self-assess whether they can keep driving safely. The seniors work with professionals who receive annual training to maintain their certification.
Ramsey’s article featured the stories of two local motorists—David, in his eighties, who decided to give up driving, and seventy-seven-year-old Virginia, who performed well on the exercises. Virginia opted for a family driving agreement in which she would stop driving in the future if her sister recommended it.
“It’s about facts, not emotions,” Cincinnati BDD representative Nancy Schuster told Ramsey. “And it’s putting the decision back in the hands of the older person.”
The Cincinnati program costs $300, but participants can return for repeat assessments. Those who give up their licenses get help in finding transportation alternatives.
I don’t know enough about this program to endorse it, but I’m going to check it out—maybe not right away, but before my son and I need to have The Talk.
For more information on Beyond Driving with Dignity, visit the main Keeping Us Safe website, http://www.keepingussafe.org/, or read Ramsey’s article at http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20130407/COL01/304070035/.