Not driving sucks.  There is just no other way for me to put it.  Sometimes I try to put a positive spin on it by pointing out the $$$ I save on car payments, gas, insurance, etc.  Or I attempt to brag about how eco-friendly I am walking most places.  And I try to feel thankful for the extra pounds I manage to shed from all that walking.  While I am typically a “glass is half full” kind of gal, this subject is something that I cannot sugar-coat.

I found it somewhat amusing this past year when both my maternal and paternal grandmothers complained to me about having to take a break from driving.  They both have their licenses back now, but each had to take several months off from driving due to some health issues.  (neither health issues were vision-related)  Both of these energetic grandmas are in their early 80’s and have never had to experience life without driving until recently.  They both made comments to me like, “My family, friends, and neighbors have been so nice about offering me rides, but it just gets old after a while” and “I feel like I’ve lost so much of my independence from not being able to drive”.  Both grandmas live far away from me, so they couldn’t see the smirk on my face while they were on the phone explaining to me how difficult life is without a driver’s license.  It took them each about 10 minutes of complaining before I heard a pause on the phone, and then a “Oh….but you probably already know how that feels, right?”  It’s funny because I don’t think that most people, even my dear sweet grandmothers, really think about what life is like not being able to drive unless they experience it for themselves.

My husband is so great about driving me places, my friends and family are constantly offering me rides, and I am truly thankful that the people in my life go out of their way for me.  But just like my grandmothers pointed out – it gets old having to rely on other people.  It’s not like my car is temporarily in the shop and I need extra help for a week.  This is every day.  I constantly need to strategize about who I am going to inconvenience next, and I am always on someone else’s schedule.  There is so much coordinating involved, especially now that I am a mom.  I shouldn’t complain too much considering I just have one child.  Sometimes I feel dizzy just from listening to Joy describe all the coordinating she has to do just to get everyone in her household to where they need to be. “Ben has to be at work early, so friend A is going to pick Lucy up in the morning and take her to the playdate, and family B is going to pick Elliana and I up for the party mid-morning, and then Ben will meet us at the party at x time, and friend C will get Lucy and bring her to x spot so we can all head home”.  Not to mention transferring car seats, baby gear, etc.

I often wish I could just hop in the car and go somewhere – anywhere – by myself.  I want to get in the car with Joy, and just have it be the two of us.  I want to make an uncomplicated trip to the store with my daughter.  But instead I feel like this “eternal pre-teen” having to ask my mom to pick me up from the mall.

Despite all my complaints about not driving, I am often relieved not to have this added stress in my life.  The driving issue is a major topic of discussion amongst the RP community.  There are a lot of people with visual impairments still driving, and many struggling with whether or not they should still be driving.  From my understanding, the type of visual tests that most states require at the DMV typically only test central vision and side vision.  So, a person with low visual fields could still pass a driver’s test in many states.  This often leaves the decision of whether to continue driving up to the individual.  And of course, most people do not want to give up this independence.  Unfortunately, I have come across several devastating stories of people with RP causing fatal car accidents.  I think about how awful I feel when my vision causes me to accidentally stumble into someone, and so I can only imagine the horror that would encompass my entire being if it was me causing the fatality.  I recently heard about a woman with RP who thought she was still okay to drive, but did not see her neighbor’s daughter sitting on the curb one day.  This woman took away that child’s life, and ended up taking her own life as well.  I considered not including this story as it is very disturbing and probably a terrible way to conclude a post.  But I think it serves as an important reminder that although driving comes with lots of benefits, it is a huge responsibility.

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9 thoughts on “The Driving Issue

  1. Really well-put, Jen. Yeah, the driving issue is a tough one (thanks for writing this one, as we have talked about so many of the things you mentioned here, but I’m not sure if I could have summarized it all like you did!) I definitely agree that people don’t really know what it’s like unless they’re permanently unable to drive. I get irritated when people, usually from older generations, point out how “back in the day” none of the moms drove, and everyone was all fine with that. Um, “back in the day” most places were centrally located. Plus, life was just a different pace 40 years ago– hence why those same moms from 40 years ago are now grandmothers complaining about not driving in their 80s! 🙂

  2. As always, great reading on your posts here! I have to agree with all of it about the driving…I just had to give up my license this summer, on my 40th birthday – what a way to reach a milestone birthday by having to give up the independence of driving! But I’ve been able to arrange for paid drivers, so that helps to feel a little self-sufficient if I can pay my way. Also, I have many wonderful friends who drive me many places. But the biggest surprise came from the amount of relief I felt about not driving anymore…I did not expect to feel relief! Which means that I guess I never realized just how stressed out I was while I was driving, knowing I was playing Russian Roulette every time. And how is this for a relief – I never, ever have to have my worst nightmare anymore! I’ve always been most terrified of causing a fatal accident. Now, that nightmare can be put to rest, ah, big sigh of relief!

    • Thanks for sharing, Roberta! I think it’s good for me and others to hear about the relief you’ve experienced from giving up driving. I’m curious to know how you go about hiring drivers? Is it through an organization or agency or just independantly? Is it just for work-related purposes, or also for trips to the store, etc?
      Thanks!
      Jenelle

  3. Very well written. Yes you do understand. Don’t forget “handicap parking tag.” All my friends /taxi drivers love it. I always carry it with me!!!!! We have some public transportation. But I do several errands in one taxi trip. They wait (METER RUNNING) and I quickly go in. I’m shopping like a man. Get it , buy it and leave. errrrr. My hairstylist picks me up. Luckily across the street is our old 1960’s shopping mall. She drops me off. I check Steinmart!!! Then finish with grocery shopping. I can do that leisurely. Then call for taxi. Always have to be creative!!!!!…… Had a fundraiser in the next city. Again challenge with rides. One suggested I meet them at a Mall. But in the last 2 years, I have had a small number of taxies that smelled so bad, it just seeped in my clothes. Luckily those days, i was going home. UGH did laundry!!!!! Hard to tell the taxi company to make sure they send a nice smelling cab. I praise my regular drivers, saying “thank you, it smells nice.” I also tip, with a little extra for gas money. The drivers pay for gas out of their pocket. I ‘m just paying one gallon. I want them to remember the nice passenger!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks Molly! Are you serious? Can you really get a handi-cap parking tag when you don’t drive? This is news to me….but I know my husband would appreciate it. It sounds like you have gotten VERY creative and I like that you tip the taxi drivers extra – they work hard! You should probably just tip the ones that smell good b/c those are the ones that you want coming back to you – haha!

  4. At the moment, I hired a friend / neighbor who drives me to work on her way to work in the mornings, and then for personal errands and/or drop offs to my friend’s house out of town. I pay $10 per hour, which includes gas…which is really cheap, but I don’t know if eventually my friend my ask for more money toward gas. I also found my afternoon driver home from work through a website called http://www.care.com….there, I posted a “care gig” position, describing my needs for a personal driver. I did pay for the membership on that site in order to have the ability to communicate with potential hires. I interviewed a few people by phone and then in person, and hired someone, also at $10 / hour. The way I did it, though, is I’m paying a flat rate for the week just to or from work ($25 to 30 for the week, one way, so a total of $55 per week just to and from work). For personal errands, doctors’ appointments, or drop off to my friends’ houses, I am paying at the $10 an hour rate. I am also keeping track of all of this in a mini-calendar, tracking how much is costing me for professional transportation, medical transportation, and “other” or personal transportation. Even though I am paying under the table and these people won’t need to claim it on their taxes, I may still be able to use these toward professional expense deduction and medical expense deduction on my taxes.

    I also have a small list of back-up drivers, especially for work. Then I also have many friends and neighbors who run me around to do errands, etc. They won’t take money from me. It ends up making a fun time of it – for example, my dear friend drove me to a doctor’s appointment yesterday afternoon. After that, we went shopping at TJ Maxx and grocery shopping, then out to dinner, then home to my house to re-arrange furniture to make room for the new home decor items I bought at TJ Maxx! But I do agree with Molly – sometimes, I feel like I have to race through the grocery store because I don’t want to keep my friend waiting. And the last thing we RPers should be doing is racing through a busy grocery store!

    • You are so creative, Roberta! I like it – you’ve given me a lot of good ideas here. I am curious to know how much your total monthly transportation costs end up being…maybe that is too personal of a question, so I will rephrase it. Do you think your total monthly transportation costs are less, equal to, or more than what you were paying when you still were driving? Also, what is your career?

      • Hi Jenelle,
        I am a school psychologist in a public school system, so I am fortunate to have a stable, decent income to support myself. I have only started with the hired drivers, so it will take some time to do a budget. I am hoping it will be less overall than transportation costs, but only when you include cost of car maintenance, gas, insurance, excise tax, etc. My usual transportation costs for gas was always very low, since I work only 15 minutes drive from home and also never did any night driving for years, so someone else always drove me at night. So – time will tell and I’ll be happy to share how that is working out!

        It definitely helps to have friends who are willing to help me out – but time will tell on that as well, since it is all still so new. It may be that none of them will want to keep helping out, such as in the dead of winter when there is two feet of snow on the ground and another foot snowing down! That will be when I will pay for my drivers to do the job, because I’ll need the help. However, so far, the driving with friends for errands in particular has worked out well because it gives us a chance to spend time together to catch up and have some fun. But the flip side is that everyone gets so busy with their own lives…and here have been times, such as the weekends, when I have no plans and no way to go anywhere. The trick is to always be sure to have at least one thing planned for fun, and hopefully tag on a few errands with that person.

        Time will tell! But I am so thrilled to have made the connection with you, your sister, and all the ladies on FB Room With A View – it really is helpful to exchange ideas and feel like we are not alone in any of our experiences.

      • I am chiming in late here, but Yes, it does suck!! You wrote about it so well, Jenelle. We will always be happy to help both of you in any way we can. I promise not to complain when I am 80 or at any time in the near future!!

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