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Ask a Trooper: How can father's poor driving skills be addressed?

Sgt. Neil Dickenson, Minnesota State Patrol

Question: I have noticed that my dad's driving skills have diminished over the past few years and I am very concerned for his safety and others on the road. What steps can I take?

Answer: This is a great question as I had investigated crashes where senior drivers had gone the wrong way on the freeway/highway or had gone through stop signs or stop lights, crashed and were seriously injured or killed.

I know having the conversation with a parent, family member or friend about going in for a road test or physical exam or just giving up the keys can be a very difficult one. Older drivers forced to stop driving may feel a lack of freedom, anger and may suffer from depression.

While elderly drivers, as a general rule, are safer drivers, declining vision and physical abilities can put aging drivers at risk.

Older drivers are more likely to get killed or injured because they are more likely to be physically fragile and less able to recover from injuries.

As a family member, try to pay close attention to older family members' driving skills. Start the discussion of when to stop driving, and determine other transportation options. Age alone cannot be considered a good cause for re-examination.

Ride along with older driver and check if they:

• Frequently check mirrors and look ahead to identify dangers.

• Navigate turns (especially left hand turns) without undo risks or waits.

• Keep within their lane lines.

• Don't get lost in familiar areas.

• Drive at reasonable speeds.

Write and sign a letter to the Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services (DPS-DVS) outlining specific concerns.

Talk to a family member's physician to see if the doctor has noticed the same problems. If so, ask the doctor to submit a request for a written/road test to DVS. If the physician sees that the person is not physically qualified to drive, the doctor can notify the department and DVS can cancel the driver's privileges.

Law enforcement can also contact DVS to review a person's license if the person was stopped for reasons such as being lost, involved in a crash or if law enforcement witnessed their driving and felt that they should either retest or get a doctor's written approval to drive.

Send your questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota to trooper@duluthnews.com or Sgt. Neil Dickenson — Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN 55811.