Over lunch one day a friend told me, “Russell, I want to die in my sleep, like my grandfather, and not like his passengers, who went kicking and screaming.” I still laugh at the joke, though not as much since I got my AARP card.
In Texas, drivers age 79-84 must renew their license in person. Drivers 85 or older must appear every 2 years. Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) staff evaluate every applicant, not just the elderly, and will refer those whose abilities are suspect to a Medical Advisory Board, which can revoke the license of those incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.
Even permanent disabilities do not automatically disqualify drivers. Those with trouble walking may still be able to drive safely. Texas Department of Motor Vehicles provides parking placards or plates that entitle these drivers to designated parking spots.
Visit seniordriving.aaa.com for Drivers 65 Plus, a self-rating tool with facts and suggestions for safe driving. The quiz there can identify areas that need improvement. It can also flag drivers that already pose an unacceptable hazard. DPS may not allow a do-over, and it is so much better to sort out problems before a license renewal, much less a catastrophe.
There is nothing about aging that automatically disqualifies drivers. Many older drivers keep the necessary skills to drive safely until an advanced age. Others temporarily lose skills due to medical conditions that respond well to treatment and rehabilitation.
Many rehabilitation centers offer pre-driving assessment programs for patients recovering from trauma or living with degenerative diseases. These programs are perfect for aging drivers who want to address deficits that may affect driving skills. A primary care physician should be consulted first, both for a referral, and to screen for medical issues. For example, insomnia slows reaction time but sometimes improves with simple medication adjustments.
Seniordriving.aaa.com has resources for family and friends of older drivers, including warning signs, how to discuss driving concerns, and transportation options. When all else fails, report unsafe drivers to DPS. Visit http://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/MedicalRevocation.htm for details.
Every Texas driver must carry liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage. The required minimum is inadequate for most retirees, who cannot afford to defend or settle a large personal injury claim. Older drivers (and their agents under powers of attorney), should discuss an umbrella liability policy with their insurance agent. If the insurance is too expensive, it’s time to sell the car.