How Old Is Too Old To Drive?

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(Memphis) She's 91, but Dorothy Hargett won't slow down.

"I bowl three times a week, play cards some days and go to church," says Hargett.

When she goes she usually drives herself.

"I don't go that far, just familiar places," says Hargett.

Jannie Winfrey also loves driving

"I can go where I want to go and stay as long as I want to," says Winfrey.

She hasn't stopped at age 93, even after a close call a few years ago.

"When I went to turn to park my car, it wouldn't park. It just kept going right and when I knew anything the car was going up the handicap pole," says Winfrey.

Fortunately she wasn't hurt and it didn't steer her from getting behind the wheel.

For  seniors who have been driving their entire lives, having to stop can be a shock, leading to anger, frustration and a loss of independence.

"I've driven since I was 15 years old. Everybody's dream was to get a car so you could be independent and go places on your own wherever you wanted to," says 71-year-old Paul Rhodes.

What can happen as you get older and get behind the wheel can be sobering.

Last September, a car driven by a 74-year-old plowed into a Germantown nail shop narrowly missing customers and workers.

The elderly driver said he had his foot on the wrong pedal.

He was OK, but three other people were hurt.

Triple A says the number of deadly accidents involving drivers between 75 and 84 years old is about the same as teenage drivers.

After age 85, the fatality rate is almost four times higher.

News Channel 3 also obtained the numbers for Tennessee.

The Department of Safety statistics show 735 people died in crashes in 2010.  Forty-eight  of the drivers were under the age of 19. Sixty of them were 75 or older.

Seventy-eight-year-old Willye Curry hasn't been in a wreck, but noticed changes in her own driving.

"I lose directions. I go some places I've gone all my life. Then I forget as I get ready to go. I will lose my directions," says Curry.

In Tennessee, and  most other states, you can get a driver's license no matter how old you are and if the license is just being renewed you might not have to take any kind of test.

It's why AARP Drivers Safety Classes are so important.

In Bartlett, the classes help seniors understand how a change in their health or certain medications can affect their driving.

"We don't teach them how to drive. We just make them aware of their habits," says AARP Drivers Safety Instructor George Coleman.

Seventy-two-year-old Floyd Munn says it  helped him.

"You get to a certain age and you just can't turn as fast as quick or not paying attention to things. This class helped me stay aware of this," says Munn.

Still, dealing with the question of when it's time to put the brakes on driving can be tough.

"We have to be very, very careful. We infringe on a person. How do we want my son or daughter to come say dad you don't need to be driving anymore. It's time to take your keys. How do you do that?" says Coleman.

"If there is an age, I think you should feel the age yourself and stop," says Winfrey.

Often it's left up to family members to take notice of things like  close calls, almost getting into wrecks  and constantly drifting into other lanes.

It can happen at any age, but for seniors it may well be a sign it's time to put on the brakes, take the keys and protect them and other drivers on the road.

As of now, there are no plans to introduce any possible laws forcing elderly drivers to take tests.

1 Comment

  • Thomas H. Evans

    The current danger on our roads are young and middle age people talking on phones and sending and receiving text messages. Is there a Drivers Test for that?

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