I received my driver’s license in 1955 at the age of 15. We had to signal left turn, right turn, and stop by sticking our left arm out of the window. Minnesota allowed 14-year-olds to drive farm tractors on public roads in those days.
My generation was the first where girls had an easy opportunity to learn to drive. Driver’s education was taught at Chaska High School. Driving became a rite of passage for all teenagers for the first time; it still is today.
The legal age to drive has changed and many new laws apply to teenage drivers. As a footnote to this subject, neither of my grandmothers drove a car, and maybe half of my mother’s generation learned to drive.
I loved to drive from my very first lesson. Moreover, I became very good at it in all kinds of weather and terrain. Long-distance driving with the pedal to the medal was pure joy. Cross-county trips became a specialty. With good planning driving 500 miles alone in a day became a no-brainer.
When my sister Jane decided to move from Chaska to California, our parents asked me to fly to Minnesota and accompany her on the trip. I ended up doing most of the driving. I am grateful for all the opportunities I took, to see so much of our wonderful, beautiful country.
Every five years I renewed my license. Decades passed one by one. In my mid 70s I flew to Minnesota, rented a car after my brother passed, and drove around my hometown of Chaska. I enjoyed visiting relatives, friends, and attending high school reunions.
In my early 70s I still drove the 500 miles in one day from Southern California to Northern California to visit my son Sean and his family. One day while driving back home I said to myself, driving this far in a day isn’t fun anymore. What happened? Why? There were no answers; simply a realization the fun was gone. I knew in my gut the fun was not coming back.
Fortunately for me there was commercial air service to Santa Rosa-Sonoma County airport. Rental cars allowed me to run around locally while the family was at work.
While preparing for my June 2018 trip I called my son and told him I was not going to rent a car. Would he please pick me up at the airport? There was silence on the other end of the line. “You’re kidding, right mom?” “No,” I replied. There was more silence on the line. Then in a soft voice he said he was happy I was coming for a visit. He could not see I had tears in my eyes.
Now in my late 70s — I am so late I will turn 80 next year — I have circulation problems in my feet and legs. I could not anticipate this situation. Nevertheless, it’s a fact. Finding the correct pedals and applying the right amount of pressure is OK “most” of the time. Does “most of the time” make it OK for me to continue driving?
I could drive until I am 95 and never have an accident. Knowing what I know, is it prudent for me to take that chance? When is it smart for a person to stop driving? Tickets and accidents could be the overriding facts to consider. No! Based on those criteria, I have a stellar driving record. My eyesight is very good. So is my hand-eye coordination. My mind is focused, creative and sharp. As for age, I know people under 50 who are poor drivers.
A motor vehicle can be a weapon of mass destruction when not used properly. After months of pondering the issue of continuing to drive, I decided this May that it is in the best interest of everyone, for me, to stop driving. On May 28, 2019, I sold my Ford Focus four-door sedan. The car only had 18,764 miles on it.
To give up driving, which I loved to do so much and for so long, was one of the toughest decisions in my whole life. That’s right!
I will remain an independent person; I just won’t drive. I am not giving up my zest for life, places to go, folks to see or travel. “Adapt, adjust and move forward” is my new mantra.
Life is about adapting to new realities and adjusting lifestyles accordingly. My place in society is not dependent on me driving a car. My value is being a loving, caring, bundle of wisdom. I have and will continue to give my love to the world in every way I can.
If you or someone you know has challenges when it comes to driving, consider safety as the most important consideration. None of us has the right to possibility kill someone or crash into a vehicle, because we are too proud or stubborn to stop driving.
Listen to your body and then decide. I did. My life has been amazing. Let the new adventures begin.