Senior drivers attend police seminar: When is enough, enough?

Though Florida has the most senior citizens per capita, California has the most seniors. In a state where the car is king, the Golden State has the most Golden Agers behind the wheel. 

At a senior seminar Thursday in Berkeley, the topic was improving older driving skills and when to say enough is enough.

Berkeley Police Officer Stephanie Cole welcomed 31 senior citizens to the North Berkeley Senior Center for a driving seminar; a sometimes touchy subject.

"A lot of folks are coming to the class. It's about an hour long and it's nice to have folks show up and have that dialogue and that conversation," said Cole.

Cole says there are well over 5 million California senior drivers; two-thirds of whom take or more medications a day. On average, elderly drivers outlive their actual ability to drive by 7 to 10 years. 

The seniors were engaged in the conversation and happy to have it. 

"I'm very concerned because I'm getting to the point where I'm thinking: how long can I drive and when should I give up?" said senior Lucy Lim.

"We gotta be honest with ourselves. Nobody wants to hurt somebody else. Yeah, talk to your doctor. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. If your family can't tell you, I don't know who can," said Wendy Bomberg.

There were many tips to extend driving, even with some physical limitations, including avoiding rush hours, staying off freeways, and driving during daylight. 

But, potential mental limitations were top of mind.

"This is a topic we don't want to face; have to face," said Lim. 

"It's designed to have that conversation, not only for the people here that are driving, but their friends and their family. So, by not necessarily saying 'this is you, this is your problem,' it's just saying 'this is a conversation we should have," said Cole.

The seniors wholeheartedly agreed.

"There are a lot of drivers over 65 and they want to know, and they want to be safe and they want to obey the rules and laws of this land," said senior Manuelita Echeveria. 

"It's just like a muscle. You have to use your muscles all the time and if you don't use it, you lose it. And, being cognitive in driving is the same way. You have to think about it," said senior Keith Pageau.

Better medicine will also keep many more seniors driving.

"Modern science allows us to improve the body we have as things wear out, and I think that's a great hope and a great promise as we move forward," said trial attorney Mosely Collins, who has dealt with numerous senior driving issues. 

But, Mosely says drivers have to be realistic: "There are some things that we're not gonna be able to overcome if it's a real physical impairment."

If a face-to-face conversation is too uncomfortable, state law allows concerned family, friends and others to anonymously ask the DMV to re-examine any driver's ability online.