Elderly Drivers Taking Safety SeriouslyWBZ

Thursday, a 93-year-old Peabody man stood before a judge, accused of negligent driving for crashing through the front of a Wal-Mart in June. A mother and her 1-year-old daughter were both hospitalized.

It was among the first in a series of highly publicized summer and fall accidents involving elderly drivers in Massachusetts.

The rash of accidents prompted a number of WBZ viewers to Declare their Curiosity. Terry from Pembroke told us, “two days ago I surrendered my license because I feel I am no longer safe to operate a motor vehicle. This was a voluntary act. Not “all’ elderly drivers behave badly or in an unsafe manner.”

And he is, of course, correct. We visited with a group of senior citizens in Dennis who are voluntarily re-learning the rules of the road, to become safer drivers.

“I’m a cautious driver,” one student told us. “Whether that means good or not, I don’t know.”

“I feel adequate,” another said. In fact I feel better than adequate, except at night.”

A few years ago, this two-hour class had to be canceled because there were not enough participants. Now it’s full.

“With everything in the news this is a kind of preemptive way of looking at your own skills,” a senior-student shared.

At this special “Older and Wiser Driver” clinic run by AAA of Southern New England and the Dennis Police Department, drivers re-learn the basics: don’t follow to close; anticipate bad drivers; but also know when it’s time to stop driving.

Elizabeth Dugan helped get her mother from behind the wheel. “As a family we came together and made a plan for her to get around without driving.”

She says it’s a decision that changes everything, and she even wrote a book about it called The Driving Dilemma.

“When someone stops driving they are at risk of depression, social isolation… the risk for mortality goes up.”

When seniors at the AAA school were asked if giving up their license would make them feel isolate, almost every hand went up.

AAA of Southern New England offers a variety of guides to help older drivers and their loved ones evaluate their skills from home. You can find them on their web site.

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