I watched several of my older aunts and uncles continue driving when they were no longer safe to drive. Like others, I heard numerous stories on the news about older drivers losing control and causing an accident. Prior to filing for disability and moving back where I grew up, I lived in Mechanicsburg outside of Harrisburg. My mother’s sister and her family lived there. I used to go home for lunch so that I could let my dog out. One day on that trip home, I witnessed my Aunt Ruth run a red light with her two step-granddaughters in the car. She also told me about other close calls she had, but she did not want to give up her license. I always said that I hope when I am no longer able to drive safely, if I don’t have the sense to give up my license, someone else has the sense to take it away from me.
When my neuropathy started getting worse, I realized that I was no longer a safe driver. One day I was driving down the road when a car decided to pass cars in a no passing zone. He pulled out facing oncoming traffic to get around a car. A bunch of us hit our brakes and fortunately, no one got hit. I realized at that point how much slower my reaction time was. Another time, I ran an errand one day for work when it was raining out. My shoes were wet and my foot slipped as I was backing out of the parking space I was in. Because I had no feeling left in my feet, I was unable to find the brake. Fortunately I was able to get my car stopped before I hit another car, but I went pretty far before being able to stop my car and came within inches of hitting another car. It was time to either put up or shut up.
In Pennsylvania, doctors are supposed to report any conditions that may inhibit your ability to be a safe driver. When I had the discussion with my doctor, I was the one that brought it up. She was aware that I had neuropathy. She was aware that I had no feeling in my feet. When I moved and got copies of my records, she even wrote “severe neuropathy” in my records. However when I brought it up to her, she suggested using hand controls and even handed me a script to get them. When I told her that I was worried that my overall reflexes were not good enough, she asked me how I would get around.
I have an uncle (who married into the family) that has neuropathy. Neither he nor his wife was safe to drive yet they continued to. I always thought that my uncle’s neuropathy was caused by burns on his legs when he was in World War II, but when I asked my mother this morning, she said she thought it was from frost bite when he was in Italy during the war. Regardless of the cause, he is not a safe driver. His neurologist did not report him and was certainly aware of his condition.
About a year ago when I was at my eye doctors, the one tech there told me her husband also has neuropathy pretty bad. He did not like to drive but he still did it but only in their neighborhood. Although I agree not getting on a highway is a good thing, I don’t think only driving in your neighborhood is good either. When I think back of all the accidents, fender benders and near misses I have ever had, all but 2 of those were in slow moving traffic areas.
The two scariest ones were near misses. One day I had gone to the store and was sitting second in line at a red light. When the light turned, I was right behind the car in front of me. As soon as we got thru the intersection, there was an opening to a parking lot for KFC. A young guy on a motorcycle pulled out from the parking lot and ran smack into the side of the car in front of me. When he hit the car, he ended up flying over the back of the car, his helmet came off and flew, and he landed on the road right in front of me. The guy that he pulled into went down the road a good distance before he stopped. Had I not been able to react fast, the poor kid would have survived being thrown off his motorcycle only to be run over by someone that wasn’t able to react fast.
I truly get how hard it is to give up driving. But would you be able to live with yourself if you killed someone? I know that I wouldn’t be able to. If had run over the kid that flew off his motorcycle, I know I would have felt horrible even if it was his own mistake that caused the accident. I know what I felt like sitting in my car for a minute afraid to move because I thought he was dead. Had I run over him, that feeling would never go away.
Don’t forget to do the Big Blue Test and record your results!