BOOK REVIEW: The Driving Dilemma

Elizabeth Dugan, Ph.D. The Driving Dilemma: The Complete Resource Guide for Older Drivers and Their Families. New York, NY: Collins, 2006. 283 pages.

$14.95 from (click to order)

For the past 80 years or so, most U.S. communities have been built around the assumption that adults will drive to obtain the essentials of life, including the proverbial quart of milk. But as people age, driving can become more difficult and more dangerous. Given the essential role driving plays in our culture, questioning a loved one's ability to operate a car can be a hot-button issue.

In this book, Elizabeth Dugan, a researcher on geriatric issues, offers a comprehensive resource on improving the safety of an older driver or persuading one to relinquish the wheel, if need be.

As Dugan notes, driving requires healthy functioning in three key areas: vision, thinking and movement. A large section of the book is devoted to how to discuss the issue of driving with a loved one who may be showing deficits in one or more of these areas -- and how to discuss it without triggering an emotional crack-up that can be as devastating to a family as an actual accident. Dugan walks readers through the “motivational interviewing” approach, which has been used successfully to help many people change behavior. Useful sample dialogue scripts accompany the discussion.

Elsewhere, Dugan explains how to assess driving fitness, the medical conditions and prescription drugs that can affect driving, and how to report an unsafe driver (including a sample letter).

The book's second half is devoted to resources for further help. For example, you'll find each state's driving regulations, including the state's age-based renewal procedures, information on state driver rehabilitation and assessment programs, and national transportation resources.

Soon one in four drivers will be over age 65, and studies suggest that we'll outlive our ability to drive by nearly 10 years. This looming crisis would be far less acute — and this book far less necessary — if more communities offered realistic alternatives to driving. As things stand now, taking away a driver's license usually imposes a sentence of immobility or dependency on others. While this book will be helpful in the interim, the underlying solution to the “driving dilemma” is to fund alternatives to the automobile and to locate the off-ramp from our car-centered culture.

Read about on aging drivers and the law, and about how to confront an aging and unsafe driver.