Howard Chusid, Ed.D, LMHC, NCC

Should You Be Driving?

How many of us have been stuck behind a driver who drives at night without putting on their lights, or makes a right hand turn from the left lane, or is busy talking on the phone and doesn't pay attention to the road, and while doing all that is blocking everyone who wants to get ahead because they are driving too slowly in the left or middle lane? Or, how many of us have watched drivers get into a car, while using a walker to walk and then start driving? Have you ever wondered what would happen if they had to stop short-thinking, if they can't walk without help, how they are going to be able to move quickly enough to stop in time to prevent an accident?

We see these things all the time, yet most of us say nothing, look the other way and hope that in case of an accident, these drivers are not near us. The basis of this month's talk is about drivers who drive but shouldn't be. Now I said it: Some people shouldn't be driving.

The question is WHY? I can tell you that my father in law shouldn't be driving. He can hardly walk, has poor reflexes, uses a walker and yet he drives. If you ask my mother in law, "he only drives around the complex and what would we do if he didn't drive?" My son took my father in law to renew his license, hoping to tell the inspector (quietly) "please don't give him a license" or "drive with him and you will see", but lo and behold, the inspector just asked him a few questions, and gave him a license again. Makes no sense to me.

I understand that driving enables independence, which everyone desires. It allows you to go anywhere that you want. It gives you the ability to go shopping, which we all need. Conversely, driving poorly frustrates the other drivers, causes accidents, and can kill.

According to Richard A. Marottolil, MD, MPH:

"Physicians must be mindful of the functional manifestations of the underlying medical conditions their older patients have. Among medical conditions that contribute to driving risk are: dementia, neurodegenerative disorders, vision disorders, sleep disorders, and conditions that adversely affect blood flow to the brain or legs. The functions that most profoundly affect safe vehicle operations are vision, cognition (information processing speed), and physical ability."

"Physicians should also consider the medications a patient is taking, particularly those that may affect vision, cognition, or physical ability. Doctors should explain the potential effects and side effects to the patient and give doses that are medically beneficial but minimize the effect on driving ability."

All that being said, physicians' ethical standards dictate that they report any medical conditions that would impair safe driving as dictated by the state of residence.

What does that mean for YOU the reader? If you use a walker, are taking medication that makes you dizzy, have bouts of vertigo, have blurry vision, have poor reflexes or any other medical condition that would effect your driving, DON'T ! If you drive slowly, or can't keep up with the traffic flow, please stay in the right lane only. If you can't see beyond the hood of your car, change your car, get a booster seat or don't drive. If you have difficulty driving, or even if you don't, PLEASE DON'T DRIVE AND TALK ON THE PHONE! If you need to talk on the phone, pull over, talk and then go back to driving. But don't do both! You have to concentrate while driving, so please don't argue with your wife or friend in the seat next to you. We can tell if you are arguing, since your car goes swerves to the right and then left, you can't stay in the same lane, and you to slow down to a crawl, infuriating all the drivers behind you.

In Conclusion: Independence is wonderful, but if the risks begin to outweigh the benefits, it may be time to turn in your keys.


Marottoli, Richard, A., M.D., MPH, Assessing Senior Patients' Ability to Drive Safely: Virtual Mentor, June, 2008, Volume 10, Number 6:365-369

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