How Old is Too Old to Drive? Who Makes the Call?

October 31, 2006 - Posted at 1:45 p.m. CST

Jonesboro, AR - Ruby Dockins, a senior citizen in Jonesboro gave up driving after having a terrible car accident that left her hands numb.

"I had the right away, but a gravel truck hit broadsided me, their brakes quit. My hands, my feet went numb, and I'm getting better. Hopefully one day I can drive again."

Ruby gave up the driving because she knew she was not only a hazard to herself, but anyone else out on the roadways.

In just a few years, one in four drivers will be elderly. As many get older, they take the necessary precautions and slow down, or only drive during the daylight, and not at peak traffic hours. But what about those who don't? Should there be a set age limit that drivers be retested on their skills?

Arkansas State Renewal Laws say drivers only have to be retested on their vision, not their driving skills. In fact only Illinois, New Hampshire, and D.C. require retesting at a set age, (75).

Like many others, Ruby feels there shouldn't be state mandated testing. "I think it's up to the individual. Because you know when you can't drive anymore."

But what about those who don't know, those who suffer from alzheimers or some other type of disorder? Who steps in then?

"In the state of Arkansas, the only way anyone has to be retested on their driving skills is if a complaint is filed with Driver's Control. With that complaint, the driver has to retest and if they fail, their liscence will be suspended."

Cpl. Doug Thomas with the State Police says it ends up in the hands of family members and friends. "If you have a friend or a family member that you notice is having trouble driving, talk to them. Help them realize they aren't just a hazard to themselves but everyone else on the road."

And there is help. If driving is no longer an option it's not the end of the world, there are alternatives. Carpooling, Public Transportation, and transportation provided by centers like St. Bernard's Senior Life Center are all ways to get you out and about.

"Driving is a freedom, being able to get around without anyone elses help means you are independent. And when that is taken away, they are depressed, they are lost, so we are here to help and provide. We take them pretty much anywhere; we go to the doctor, hairdresser, even wal-mart."

Sometimes admitting you need to hand over the keys is hard, but there is help. If you or someone you know needs help in this situation, there are several organiztions that offer discussion tips, signs when you need to hand over the keys, and what to do when they won't listen.