Out of Control Policy Blog

After the Santa Monica Tragedy

Some are now (understandably) pushing for more DMV testing for elderly drivers. One unintended consequence we ought to consider is how increased government testing could affect the likelihood that adult children of elderly drivers will have that tough (yet necessary) conversation with their parents about whether mom and dad should continue driving:

Mary Louise Nelson, 82, and her daughter, Wendy Winningham, make each other laugh and finish each other's sentences. But when their conversation Thursday turned to the 86-year-old man who drove through the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, there was awkwardness.

"I'm only driving within three miles of my home," said Nelson, who has glaucoma. "I don't have any trouble driving."

"She feels like she can," said Winningham, 49. "I feel like she shouldn't."

It's a role reversal, a twist on the battle of wills between the teenager eager for the freedom a driver's license brings and the fretful parent reluctant to turn over the keys.

This time around, the child worries about safety, and the parent complains of being babied.

If the government imposes stronger testing requirements for the elderly, might those already squeamish about addressing their parents’ decreasing driving capabilities be more inclined to decide that this matter is the government’s responsibility?

Let’s hope the children of elderly drivers won’t pass the buck.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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