When is it time to take away the Royal keys?
Well, this is awkward. A spry 97-year-old crashes into another car, injuring its occupants, but all the talk is not concern for their welfare but rather observations about the nonagenarian’s desire to remain independent — in other words, free to drive a motor vehicle.
Since this particular senior driver happens to be the Duke of Edinburgh, the media has taken a lot more interest than it likely would were he a regular bloke. Yet, the nobody-can-tell-me-not-to-drive scenario is as common among the common folk as among the royals.
Just ask Matt Gurwell, founder and CEO of Keeping Us Safe, a U.S.-based organization founded in 2008 to provide practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families.
“Our programs are designed to save lives while helping to ease the burden on families who find themselves faced with the very emotional and challenging problem of dealing with a family member who should no longer be behind the wheel,” said Gurwell.
Keeping Us Safe (https://www.keepingussafe.org) works to help older drivers make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat, as well as to help ensure that the individual is able to maintain as much of their personal independence as possible. The organization’s “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program equips families and certified professionals who work with senior drivers to make the process of relinquishing their car keys as positive as possible.
As for the stubborn Duke, who reportedly was driving a shiny new vehicle within two days following the crash, Gurwell says all involved were at least fortunate the royal hit another vehicle rather than a pedestrian or — as is increasingly common in the U.S. and many other nations — a building.
“As an ally of the Storefront Safety Council, I’m well aware of what happens when a senior driver confuses his brake and gas pedals, or mixes up drive with reverse,” Gurwell added. “The result can be catastrophic.”
Authorities in the UK, including the royals themselves, have been tight-lipped about the cause of the Duke’s crash. But in the U.S., the Storefront Safety Council found that drivers aged 70+ account for 34 percent of vehicle-into-building crashes (http://www.storefrontsafety.org/statistics.html).
“Drivers of all ages make mistakes,” noted Gurwell, “but senior drivers are especially prone to the loss of driving skills as their reaction time, vision and other factors diminish with age.”
Perhaps it’s time one of the younger royals picks up a copy of “Beyond Driving with Dignity” from Keeping Us Safe and starts the hard conversation — before the police find themselves responding to a road tragedy that’s beyond awkward.