Know the red flags: When driving becomes dangerous

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Driving is a privilege that many of us take for granted. But at a certain age, it becomes dangerous.
Missouri Department of Transportation Traffic Engineer Joe Rickman says there are some signs you can look out for to make sure older drivers are still okay to get behind the wheel.
“Can you still turn your neck adequately to see out of your side mirrors and your rear view mirror? How’s your flexibility and mobility within the car? Does the car fit you?” said Rickman.
Rickman says doctors can help answer those questions, and make recommendations about when it’s time to retire from driving.
“The older driver category is an area where we’ve seen an increase in fatalities,” Rickman said, “Probably more so than other areas. And it is something we’re concerned about.”
Springfield resident Rita Cox is still driving safely at age 70.
She said, “I do pretty well. I drive very defensively. Especially since I had grand kids, and had them in the car. I don’t stop near as close. I leave plenty of room between cars. And I don’t drive as fast as I used to.”
She says now, she stays relatively close to home and rarely drives at night, but she says driving just isn’t as easy as it used to be.
“I know my reflexes aren’t as quick,” said Cox.
Cox says she remembers having an uncomfortable conversation with her mother about driving when she was in her nineties. She says her mom didn’t want to give up her keys, even though it was recommended by her doctor.
“I said, ‘We’re not trying to hurt you, we’re not trying to take you independence away, but we’re trying to keep you safe,’” Cox explained.
And even though she’s capable of driving now, she acknowledges that there will eventually come a time when she has to give up driving. She says if her children or grandchildren decide to talk to her about it, she wants them to be honest.
“Just say, ‘Grandma, mom, we want you around for a while. Our kids want you around for a while. And we’re afraid for you. I think they will,” laughed Cox.
MoDOT administrators say a big concern for is older drivers forgetting to buckle up because when older people get in a wreck, they’re even more likely to be injured or even killed since their bones are more brittle.
In Missouri, once you’re 70-years-old, you’ll need to renew your license every three years. People between the ages of 21 and 70 need to renew every six years. A vision and sign identification test is required.