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Our View: Driving is a right worth testing for

Our View
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How do you tell your parent, grandparent or elderly loved one that it’s time to turn in their driver’s keys? Within the past few weeks the Auburn Journal has reported on two serious traffic collisions that both involved senior drivers. One accident left the 84-year-old who pulled out into Highway 49 traffic dead and the other seriously injured a Placer County Sheriff’s deputy when the 83-year-old man behind the wheel attempted to make a left turn out of a right-only exit on Bell Road. The tragedies, which were about a week apart, have spurred the debate about when is the right time to suggest or take away an elder’s independence. While not an easy decision to make, road safety is an important topic that everyone needs to take seriously. The state should do its part by requiring mandatory testing every two years for drivers 80 years old and older. The mandatory testing would include a driving test, vision test and a short written test and be at a low-cost at the senior’s expense. Another option is for senior drivers to take mature driving courses offered by groups such as the AARP. Some of the courses are even offered online. There are valid arguments that younger, more reckless drivers are more of concern than cautious older drivers on the road. But that’s not the point of this discussion. John Locher, the senior driver ombudsman for the Department of Motor Vehicles, pointed out in a recent Journal story, many drivers aged 85 and older have spotless records. For those drivers, it should not be a problem to have “check-ups” every two years to assure themselves and others that they are fit to continue using public roads. Just as there are some checks in place for a younger driver learning to take to the road – weeks of driver’s education they pay for at private companies, on-the-road time with an instructor and their parents, and a ban on friends in cars – there should be additional checks as drivers age. Conscientious drivers and their families should embrace this type of test and safety check. Many can relate, with some difficulty, when they’ve noticed a member of their family who may not be as equipped to drive as safely as they once were. The vision, written and driving tests can be a way to validate and assure that an older driver is still OK to be on the road. When it does come time to take away the keys, there are options available to those still mobile who like to be out and about. Community programs like Seniors First offer shuttles and meal-delivery programs. There is also Auburn Transit, which offers a 60-cent one-way fare to seniors. Placer County Transit offers Dial-A-Ride transportation Monday through Friday, which is also available at low cost. It’s a challenge to suggest taking away an elder’s independence, but it is an issue worth facing for the safety of the drivers and their families and for others on the road.