Did you know roughly 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day? In fact, by 2020, it's estimated that nearly one in six citizens will be 65 or older, most of them still licensed to drive.
Alabama has one of the highest percentages of drivers 65 and older in the nation. For many older drivers, their mobility gives them a sense of freedom, of having choices and affects their overall quality of life.
But when is the right time for seniors to turn over the keys?
At the age of 83, Mary Sisk is as independent as they come. The retired day care worker recently moved into a new independent living apartment, and she loves being able to drive wherever she wants to go.
She said for years she had to depend on someone else to take her places and she got tired of it.
Nancy Robertson is the director of aging for the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments. She and her family came face to face with this issue when her father was having a hard time admitting his driving was deteriorating. Then, they turned to his physician.
"He still gave my dad his dignity and respect and didn't talk down to him, but really talked through situations with him and talked with him about the dangers," said Robertson.
She says sometimes the message is easier coming from someone other than family, a physician, or even a friend, but it's never too early to have the talk.
"It's always good to start the conversation before there is a crisis so that maybe it's not an emotional issue or a threatening issue," said Robertson.
But while talk is great, there may come a time when you have to take action.
So when do you take away the keys?
There are some states that require vision testing for older drivers; Alabama is not one of them. But, State Trooper Curtis Summerville says a family member or even a neighbor who has concerns about someone's ability to safely operate a vehicle can fill out what's called a sight card.
"You would have to be able to articulate why you don't feel the person can safely operate a motor vehicle. What you are articulating is several instances where the person was involved in hitting mailboxes, being involved in several collisions [or] maybe hitting a car in a parking lot," said Summerville.
Questionable driving patterns have to be witnessed firsthand, and the senior driver will know it was you who filed the sight card.
Once completed, troopers will administer an exam testing the seniors' reflexes, vision, flexibility and hearing. If they don't pass, they don't get to keep their license.
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