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Older Drivers: The Car Key Decision

As the number of older drivers increases as the population ages, the question arises more often: When should the car keys be taken away to ensure the safety of older drivers -- and others on the road?

When It's Time to Quit continued...

"We were concerned that patients with potentially blinding diseases would not seek the medical care they might need to halt progression of vision loss once they learned their physician was obligated to turn them in to the DMV," says Craig H. Kliger, MD, a representative of the ophthalmology academy to the AMA. The AMA eventually adopted language that made it "ethically acceptable and desirable" to report an impaired driver, but not mandatory -- except where required by law.

But if the DMV is not involved, or the driver's doctor is unsuccessful in convincing the patient, more creative solutions are needed. Wexler recalls a man in his 80s suffering from dementia who refused to stop driving. Finally, the family asked a distant relative who was a police officer to come to the house and tell the man that his insurance had lapsed and his car was going to be removed. The man agreed to stop driving and instead of being angry with his family, called his son to complain about what the police had done. "If the person respects authority, this can work," says Wexler.

Mr C is finally off the road, too. His son came to visit and told his father he couldn't drive any longer. Oddly, Mr. C seemed relieved, says Gauthier, the retirement community's assistant manager. "He says, 'Well, my doctor kind of said I shouldn't be driving. ... ' " And he had been thinking about giving his car to his grandson, anyway.

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Reviewed on July 17, 2003

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