How Old Is Too Old To Drive?

October 5, 2012

In politics, there are plenty of "third-rail" topics that candidates try to avoid. Many of those issues are hugely important to one major demographic: senior citizens.

But older voters aren't just concerned with Social Security and Medicare. They're also worried about personal freedom and independence -- symbolized, in part, by their right to drive.

Earlier this year, AAA conducted a study of drivers 65 and older. And a whopping 89% said that losing their driver's license would be a huge problem. Many had begun curtailing their driving to reduce the possibility of accidents and ensure those licenses stay in their pockets.

But Margaret Dunning of Plymouth, Michigan doesn't seem to worry about such things. At 102, she still drives regularly, and she still changes her own oil. Perhaps most impressively, she does so with an 82-year-old car that she's owned for 63 years.

Dunning was born in 1910, and her favorite car, a 1930 Packard 740 Roadster, followed 20 years later. She got her driver's license at the age of 12, and apart from a few fender-benders, most of her troubles with Johnny 5-0 have been because of speeding. "I have lead in my feet," she says.

It's not unusual to see owners like Dunning maintaining older cars, but finding active drivers who remember the Roaring '20s seems a bit out of the ordinary.

However, Dunning may not be such an oddball down the line. Life expectancy rates continue to increase in the U.S. (PDF), and most drivers will continue getting behind the wheel long after their AARP card arrives in the mail. Some insist that older drivers are safer now than they once were, but not all will be able to grow old gracefully as Dunning has.

Have you discussed matters like these with your older family members? Do you have a plan in place -- a well-defined set of criteria that could force that family member to surrender his or her driver's license? And how do you plan to accommodate his/her travel needs once that license is gone? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

[via John Voelcker]

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