How and when to give up the car keys
I love driving, especially in my blue sports car, a Nissan 350Z.
I love the freedom of getting up and going whenever I want.
I love the sensation of smoothly shifting through six gears.
I love the power of the acceleration.
I love the control in taking whatever route I want.
I love the sense of pride in keeping my car in mint condition.
So when I contemplate the possibility that a time will come when I shouldn’t be driving, when my eyesight, motor skills and reaction time reach the point where I’m endangering myself and others inside and outside the car, I get despondent and depressed, then angry at the prospect of having one of life’s great pleasures taken away from me.
But then I remember the near-calamities that my parents experienced:
- While wintering in Arizona, Mom came home from shopping one day with the entire right side of the car ripped up. She had no idea how it happened or that it even occurred. It turned out her rapidly escalating and un-diagnosed Alzheimer’s played a central role.
- Early one summer morning, Dad whose MS was causing vivid hallucinations, snuck out at 2 AM to take a spin to his favorite park. Once there, he couldn’t remember how to get home so he (fortunately) waited for us to come find him. It all made for a frantic four hours for the rest of the family.
Rather than put myself and my family in those situations, I’ve decided to establish criteria with my wife and daughter that will help me transition from driver to passenger. We’ve even put it in writing to avoid any misunderstanding on their part or back-sliding on mine.
- Annual eye exam that meets drivers’ license requirements
- Test for motor skills and mental acuity as part of my annual physical
Will I miss zipping around in my sports car when the time comes to become a full-time passenger? You bet.
But I also know that laying down the trigger points now and sharing them with the family will be way easier than scaring them into a “taking away the car keys” confrontation because of some crazy or even lethal driving stunt I inadvertently performed.