CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — A famous Danville native is making national headlines after being in a car accident. Dick Van Dyke wasn’t seriously hurt, but police are requiring the 97-year-old to retake his drivers test.
The accident has brought up the difficult topic: when people should stop driving. It’s a sensitive subject, and a tough conversation to have with a loved one. But experts explain that there are ways that you can go through the process that still respects a person’s independence while also keeping them safe.
“I mean you kind of start out dangerous, you get safe and then you come back to dangerous again,” Tony Martin said.
Martin has seen a lot in his 23 years as a driving instructor at M & M Driving School.
“Younger drivers are a hazard, are dangerous on the roadway because they are inexperienced,” he said. “Senior citizens are getting dangerous because they are losing the ability to make the decisions.”
Martin said some of the most common mistakes seniors make are forgetting to use their turn signals, driving too slow and rolling through stop signs.
He said in the State of Illinois, once drivers turn 75, they are required to take a driving test every two years. After they turn 81, they have to take a test every year.
“Examiners have a tough job,” Martin said. “It’s really difficult for an examiner to look at an older person and say ‘You’re not passing. You’re done.'”
He added that it can be even harder for the drivers.
Avi Laird is the manager for Counseling and Advocacy at Family Service of Champaign County. She said losing a license is like losing your independence.
“Nobody prepares for not being able to prepare,” Laird explained.
So how can you help a senior member in your family? She said it starts by having an honest conversation and giving them options. For example, finding ways to make seeing family and friends easier for them.
“Start by lessening the obligations of them driving but still being social,” Laird said.
This can allow family members to still remain connected to family, but not feel like driving is the only way they can have a fulfilling life. Then, make sure they know what services are available if they can’t drive.
The Family Service of Champaign County offers free rides to any senior. They recommend booking three days to a month ahead.
At the end of the day, Laird said it’s all about making sure people stay safe.