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Driving challenges seniors face and Texas laws that apply to them


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Retirement is a milestone in our lives that means time to get out and explore, time to do those things that are important to us.  Unfortunately, another inevitable milestone is reached when driving one's own vehicle becomes a challenge due to vision changes or a medical condition that alters the driver's abilities behind the wheel.  It can happen unexpectedly, as in stroke, or it can occur gradually over an extended period of time.

Some drivers face the realization that it is time to give up the keys while others hang on to the privilege of driving until a catastrophic event forces them from the roadway or the Department of Public Safety suspends the license.  In any case, life is changed forever.  Oftentimes, seniors reside alone or with a spouse that can no longer drive.  The simple tasks of banking, shopping, medical appointments and going to church become insurmountable.  Seclusion may lead to depression.  Guilt arises from placing a burden on family members.  The cost to hire a companion driver is oftentimes prohibitive for seniors on a fixed income.

Photograph by Edward Stephens

 The State of Texas recognizes that many physical issues may be overcome.  Texas may still issue you a driver's license if you can demonstrate that your condition does not affect your ability to safety operate a motor vehicle.  Your local driver license office can provide information about how your particular medical condition may affect your driving privileges and on senior assessment and specialized training for seniors and others with disabilities.

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Several states mandate that the primary care physician report unsafe drivers to their state department of public safety.  Texas has no such mandate.  Texas does, however, allow anyone to report unsafe drivers at a Texas Driver License office.  Once the report is received, it is forwarded to a Medical Advisory Board (MAB) which is a panel of physicians that are appointed by the Texas Department of State Health Services.  A physician from the panel will review possible medical conditions as they relate to the driving ability of the Texas driver and documentation submitted by the driver's personal physician.  Needless to say, it is prudent to involve your physician early on and make him or her a partner in the retention or recovery of your driving privileges.

The transportation needs of our non-driving seniors, for the most part, are still being met by family members.  In the greater Houston metropolitan area, transportation is available with emphasis on transporting seniors and the disabled to medical offices and facilities.  In the outlying areas, it is sketchy at best.  Follow us through our next several articles as we explore resources to assist senior citizens in finding transportation that is available and affordable.  Start now by finding the Area Agency on Aging or county office on aging near you by calling (800) 252-9240.  Texas also has Area Information Centers, agencies selected by their communities and designated by the Texas Information and Referral Network to provide information about health and human services in their respective regions.