Monday, February 23, 2004

Social Responsibilty - Taking Away Dad's Car Keys?

If you have an older parent who is still driving, do yourself a favor and read this article in the Christian Science Monitor . I and my brothers made the mistake of not taking action some years ago and had to listen to the tragic news that our Dad had crossed a busy highway and had not seen someone coming. My mother, riding as passenger, was killed and my father injured.

Fortunately, no one else was killed. But the driver of that other car now has to live the rest of their life knowing that they killed someone, even though it wasn't their fault. My Dad had had other accidents in the past and had even totaled his own car , pulling out into traffic when he didn't have the room to do so. We had all ridden in the car with him and had witnessed scary moments of bad decision-making and poor reflexes. Yet somehow none of us thought we could tell him, that enough was enough. We hoped his doctor might stop him - after all, he complained of double vision and was on heavy dosages of prednisone for an illness. It would have been nice if the doc had stopped him, but we should have taken action, as well. I think we also figured (hoped?) he would just be lucky enough to somehow not hurt anyone - Wrong.

I think part of it was that my Dad had always been a very capable person and we all knew his car was his lifeline to his independence. We probably also were concerned for my mother's sanity, should he now no longer be able to drive and be forced to spend all day in the house! I think my Mother probably feared that taking those keys away would also rob him of his independence. To those of you with older parents, forget that! They'll learn to cope (and you may be saving countless lives). It was a mistake not to take those keys away. Had we been firm enough, I think he would have stopped. It would certainly have spared us all a tragic loss. So, for those of you who read this, honestly assess how your parents drive and if they're no longer skilled and possess good judgement, do yourself, them, and many others a big favor and take those keys away.

From the article:
Several years ago, as my own father approached 90, I worried about such accidents and that my dad, licensed in 1927, might cause an accident. I believed this after dozens of erratic rides with him in the driver's seat, brushing up against curbs at 30 mph, taking corners from the middle of busy streets, and cruising past stop signs. I was scared for him - and for others. I wanted him out from behind the wheel. I believed it was time.

The author of the article was lucky, as he didn't take action to take those keys away. Instead , his father decided on his own at age 90, that he had had enough. Of course, I reasoned, he'd had one too many close calls. Maybe he was scared, some near-miss forcing his decision. Certainly, I believed, it wasn't my hectoring. I'd been passive when I could have acted because I couldn't turn stool pigeon. In hindsight, I was thinking of myself when I should have been thinking of my dad - and so many other fathers, sons, and families on the road. 

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