Shirley Norris, a St. Louis engineer and MoDOT’s oldest employee, sat on a panel addressing mature driving safety at the Missouri Blueprint Coalition Conference in downtown St. Louis last week. The 84-year-old was one of four drivers that shared stories and answered questions about the potential risks drivers face at advanced ages.
“Raising awareness to this topic is a very timely matter to bring to the Missouri Safety Coalition. This is relevant to all generations because people are living a lot longer now,” said Norris from the panel.
|Shirley Norris speaks at the Missouri Blueprint Coalition Conference about the challenges mature drivers face.
In the next 20 years the number of mature drivers (persons 70 & over) is predicted to triple in the United States. As people age, they begin to lose some of the abilities that enabled them to drive easily. Difficulties with sight, hearing, mental ability and physical agility can impair driving skills.
Studies show that mature drivers are less likely than other drivers to be in crashes involving high speeds or alcohol, but they are more likely to crash at intersections where they miss a stop sign or turn left in front of oncoming traffic.
More and more adults are being faced with making the decision to take the keys away from an elderly parent, which in some cases also takes away the sense of independence.
“I know that eventually that day will come that I will be asked to hand over my keys. I will oblige because I trust my children’s judgment. However, that would have a major impact on my lifestyle. It opens a whole new world of having to plan and figure out how to get around on a daily basis,” said Norris.
Public transportation is not always the best option for the elderly when some can also be faced with physical challenges. Alternative transportation for seniors is offered as another solution, but some of these organizations ask for up to a two week notice in advance.
“I take precautions and do not drive at night or in unfavorable weather conditions. That is why I am so grateful for my MoDOT family and position which enables me to work from my laptop at home when such conditions arise. Therefore, I will continue to take the best care of myself so that I can keep driving,” said Norris.
Norris will be celebrating her 85th birthday in February and has no intentions on retiring anytime soon.