When Should Older Adults Stop Driving?

Have you ever seen an elderly person drive below the speed limit, swerve between lanes, or even cause a near collision? “This person should not be on the roads!” you might exclaim to yourself, or wonder why their family is still letting them drive. But when that older driver is a parent, grandparent, or other relative, taking away the keys can be emotional and challenging.

By itself, old age isn’t a reason for taking away someone’s keys. In fact, older drivers tend to be safer drivers than most other age groups. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, older drivers actually cause fewer deaths than drivers of any other group. They are also more likely to practice safe driving habits, like wearing a seat-belt and obeying the speed limit. As these statistics show, advanced age does not inherently mean dangerous driving.

Driving Issues for Older Adults

However, some of the natural side effects of aging can have an impact on a person’s driving ability. These include:

  • Vision difficulty
  • Hearing difficulty
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Reduced coordination
  • Joint pain
  • Mental changes
  • Other health conditions, like dementia or Parkinson’s Disease

When a driver, regardless of age, begins to experience any of these issues, they might be dangerous on the roads. For example, a driver with a hearing issue might fail to get out of the way of an ambulance. Or, a driver with joint pain in their neck might not be able to fully look in both directions for oncoming traffic. If someone is suffering from memory loss due to aging or dementia, they might get lost while driving, or forget to use their turn signal or lights. In the best case scenario, an older driver might be bothersome to other drivers on the roads. At worst, they could cause a serious accident, or hit a pedestrian or bicyclist.

Older drivers can also be a danger to themselves: drivers over the age of 80 have a higher crash death rate than any other group, with the exception of teenagers. Additionally, older adults are more likely than other age groups to sustain serious injuries in an accident, since their bodies are older and frailer.

Talk It Out

If you have an elderly relative who is exhibiting dangerous or impaired driving behavior, it’s critical that you talk to them about the next steps. Ask if they would be willing to give up driving, and come up with other options, like public buses, Uber, or a transportation program through a local religious center or other organization.

In some situations, an older relative may not want to give up their driving abilities. In this case, consider getting the second option of a physician, eye doctor, or even a family attorney. If the situation becomes desperate, family members can take the keys away. When dealing with an older driver who is reluctant to give up their car, though, remember that for them, driving can be a big source of independence and dignity. Keep this in mind, and remind them that giving up driving will be best for everyone.

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The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

 

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