- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2014

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) - Nikki Crooke of DeKalb plans to keep driving until they tell her she can’t any more.

Crooke, 79, of DeKalb, said she would feel a terrible loss of independence without her driver’s license.

“I worked as a visiting nurse for hospice up until just three years ago,” Crooke said. “I put about 800 miles a month on my car.”

Discussions about giving up one’s driver’s license - and with it a measure of independence - are difficult for senior citizens.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,401 people age 65 and older were killed and 185,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. These older individuals made up 17 percent of all traffic fatalities and 8 percent of all people injured in traffic crashes that year.

In January, two crashes on Peace Road in Sycamore involving drivers in their 80s led to serious injuries; in one, an 85-year-old driver died as a result of injuries suffered in the crash.

Seniors, and those who care for them, need to have discussions about driving, advised Diana King, senior service director for Family Service Agency. But it’s not always an easy one.

“Always be respectful and sensitive when having that conversation,” King said. “Understand that it’s difficult to lose that independence.”

Illinois law requires that drivers older than 75 take a vision and driving test to renew their driver’s licenses. Sometimes drivers also have to take the written test, depending on any incidents in which they may have been involved in the previous four years.

At age 82, drivers have to take a road test every two years. From age 87 on, a road test is required annually.

King said the senior centers in DeKalb and Sandwich offer Rules of the Road review courses to help seniors pass the test.

“Before approaching your loved one, it might help to enlist the help of a sibling or their doctor,” King said. “Give specific examples of something they did that wasn’t safe, that worried you for their safety.”

Factors that contribute to safety issues for seniors include slower reaction time, depth perception changes, vision or hearing problems, decreased ability to focus, feelings of nervousness or anxiety and general medical issues.

In the DeKalb and Sycamore area, King said alternative transportation is available through TransVac.

Some people know when it’s time to give up their keys, King said.

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