It’s the not-so-new DUI that is becoming as rampant as are the increased incidences of Alzheimer’s disease in the world.
Imagine, if you will, being cognitively impaired and trying to maneuver through streets, highways, and the like. Ever been in an unfamiliar city trying to find your way around? You slow down, trying to read the street signs while at the same time glancing at either the GPS in your car or your printed-out directions that you’re trying to balance on your lap. Suddenly you find the street you need but you’re in the wrong lane so you hastily drive to the far right lane so you can make the turn, cutting off – and pissing off – everyone who was subjected to your erratic driving. Now multiply that by 100 for the person with dementia whose reaction times have slowed down, but the traffic has not.
Are you enabling someone in your family by not having the difficult, yet necessary, conversation about driving safety? “She only uses the car to drive to the grocery store, eight blocks away.” Oh, is that all? Well then, nothing could possibly happen that might harm/kill her or harm/kill another innocent driver or pedestrian, or child on his bicycle zooming out of a driveway and into the street. Right?
In the attached article, Driving with dementia: the dangers of denial, I go into detail about the hazards inherent with driving under the influence of dementia, so I won’t repeat its content here, but I encourage you to take the time to give it a look-see. I’m readdressing this issue because of what I witnessed today:
- A car making an unsafe switch of lanes, barely missing the huge SUV in front of which she maneuvered her car;
- Then I witnessed this SUV – certainly not understanding the circumstances surrounding this affront to his driving – quickly passing the woman and doing the same to her as had been done to him – abruptly changing back into her lane with nary a few inches to spare between his back bumper and her front bumper;
- Now I’m behind the impaired driver who stops suddenly at an intersection (we have the green) and she puts her left hand turning indicator on, only she’s not in the left hand turn lane – she’s in the through lane and she’s risking a multiple-car pileup by her actions. I could not move to the left or right to avoid her so I laid on the horn and fortunately, she proceeded straight ahead, not making her left turn;
- Further down the road she managed to get into the left-hand turn lane and as I passed her, I clearly saw an impaired and confused woman in her 70′s who appeared unaware of where she was or where she was going.
I was in no position to follow her to assure that she was okay, but I did throw up a prayer that she would get safely to where she needed to be – without harm to anyone else as well – and that her family or someone close to her would do what was necessary to take away her car keys.
Denial about this issue doesn’t solve anything. Please make the decision today to remove the keys from a person who absolutely should not be driving because of his or her dementia.
You just may save someone’s life.