By Christine Steinmetz, J.D., Hotline Attorney
This post is the second part of a previous blog post on Caregivers Guide to Driving Issues. The Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors receives phone calls every week from loved ones and caregivers asking what he or she can do when there are concerns about a loved one’s driving.
In our last post, I discussed issues that arise when a caregiver becomes aware of potential problems of an older driver, and the resources that are available to assist them. According to Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), one out of five drivers will be over the age of 65 by the year 2030. As our Michigan population ages, more caregivers will be faced with issues of an aging driver. As issues arise, the caregiver may ask whether he or she should have a talk with the older driver or should the caregiver take away the keys. AARP has a free online seminar called “We Need to Talk.”
The medical community can help a caregiver assess how a person’s physical and mental health can impact his or her driving skills. Doctors and optometrists are not required to report to the Secretary of State. If they do report an unsafe driver, the report must be based on a medical episode. The Secretary of State has a Request for Driver Evaluation, which can be submitted to refer an unsafe driver. You can also send a letter requesting a reexamination if there is a possibility that a person is driving unsafely.
We receive calls at the Legal Hotline from both caregivers and drivers regarding the Secretary of State requesting a reexamination of a driver. Many people become upset when there is a request for reexamination because they think they will lose their license. This is not true.
During the reexamination, a driver assessment analyst will observe the driver’s skills and habits. Although the Secretary of State can revoke or suspend your license after the reexamination, often it will not suspend the license, but make recommendations that will allow the driver to continue to drive safely and maintain their independence. The analyst may determine that the driver needs special equipment to allow them to continue to drive. Other common recommendations are no freeway driving, no nighttime driving, wearing glasses, or an additional right-side mirror on the vehicle.
If you are contacted by Secretary of State for a reexamination, you must show up for your appointment. If you fail to report for the reexamination, the Secretary of State will suspend your license, and you will need to reschedule your appointment with them.
As a society, we all want to continue driving to maintain our independence, but we need to be aware of changes that can affect one’s driving. As caregivers, we are often the first to become aware of changes in a loved one’s driving abilities.
For more information about services for seniors, please contact the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at 800-347-5297.