Are your car and your freedom the same thing?

It’s been a tough week.  A family member lost her driving privileges. And I helped.

I’m not especially proud of that, but it was time. Actually, it was her doctor who filed the paperwork recommending that she no longer drive for medical reasons, and the Department of Motor Vehicles took him at his word, and suspended her license. On the one hand, it’s a good thing; no more fender benders, no more worrying about which canal she will find, headlights first. She will save money on insurance, maintenance, gas, tires and car washes. The car will be sold, and the cash is hers to use for living expenses.

However, she loses what all of us cherish most about each day: the ability to get up and do what you have to do, what you want to do, and to make your own decisions, be they important or mundane, imperative or trivial. In the life of a driver, there are two bad days: the day you take your driving test to get your license, and the day you must give up the keys with the realization that with the onset of aging, the slowing of reflexes and the dimming of eyesight have left you with no choice.

Dying behind the wheel is doubtless a bad way to leave this life, yet so many people say they would rather be dead than lose their auto-mobility. Yet there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe behind the wheel, as well as make the decision to give up driving before you need it. You can arrange in writing for someone you trust to observe your driving habits, before a bad accident happens and you wind up before a judge. You can ask your doctor about ways to test your motor skills and reflexes as you get older. AARP offers a driver safety course to help older drivers adjust their skills.

But most important, staying safe is about accepting the fact that at some point, your life will not include tooling around town in your beloved Buick, or dashing out and hopping into your Honda. It’s time to make plans for the part of your next life that will be carless, but not necessarily without wheels. Bicycle, tricycle, golf cart or bus, anyone?

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4 Comments

Filed under Aging, automobiles, family, Relationships

4 responses to “Are your car and your freedom the same thing?

  1. wherethedaytakesme

    I don’t think the two are exclusive, I am 37 and I do not drive, don’t have a drivers licence and I don’t think that driving always means freedom. I am free do do lots of things if I choose. I think it is a privialge, sometimes a necessity. but I feel just as free without driving.

    • nancymn

      Sockrocker, I am curious….did you ever drive, or just make the decision not to ever drive? I agree with you, by the way. Freedom in life is indeed what you make of it, and while a set of wheels helps, especially here in South Florida, where we do not have much to offer in the way of public transit, you can arrange your life just fine without it. In larger cities, with good public transportation, or with family nearby, it makes it easier. I think it is better to never drive, than it is to drive for years, become accustomed to it and then be FORCED to give it up, which is what happened in this case. Had the keys been turned in voluntarily and with enough time to make arrangements, things would be different. The person in this story lost her job, by the way, because she cannot get to it.

  2. Tough decision for you, but ultimately the right one. How would you have lived with yourself if this person had died in an accident or killed someone else?

    • Nancy Munro

      Exactly. And it was the call I never wanted to get. Bad enough she’d already been involved in some minor fender benders that did damage to the vehicle. I knew worse was coming. And for the record, one of my brothers was against my decision, and one agreed with it. I want to seriously find a way to get people to think about this. Have a written directive, along with a will and a health care directive, stating that you will agree to have your skills tested and make plans for the day you cannot drive. It’s a lot easier to make the decision when you can, rather than when you are confronted with no choice.

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