If you have ever been in the position of asking an elderly loved one to stop driving, you know how emotionally tolling it can be for everyone involved. Many seniors tend to be stubborn and reluctant to give up driving. They may continue to drive when it is no longer safe, and put themselves and others at risk, simply because they want to remain mobile and independent.
As people age, their physical, cognitive, and visual abilities decline, and medications associated with aging can impair driving ability. Even in the most ideal driving conditions, older drivers are more susceptible to injury and medical complications due to vision impairment, slow reaction time, and lost focus. According to the CDC, per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting between ages 70-75 and are highest among drivers 85 and older. On average, about 500 elderly adults are injured in car crashes daily. The sad, but honest, reality is that the risk of being injured or killed in a car crash increases as you age.
Only 19 states make senior drivers renew their licenses more often than younger drivers. Illinois and New Mexico are the only states that require annual renewal, and Illinois is the only state that orders drivers to retake road tests as they age. Many states avoid implementing laws regarding senior drivers, so family members often find themselves responsible to take action.
Dealing with a loved one who you do not believe should be driving can be challenging. Asking them to give up their perceived independence and freedom may cause them to get upset, refuse to listen to you, ignore you, or even lie to you. If you have an older family member or friend who refuses to stop driving, consider using these strategies:
•Take a ride with them. Note what issues they have while driving. Do they follow traffic signals and road signs? Can they follow directions? Do they drive at an appropriate speed? Do they park properly? If you notice a problem, address it right away.
• If problems stem from driving at night, driving on highways, or driving during certain weather conditions, suggest that your loved one limits any driving to daytime hours, driving on side streets, or driving when it is clear weather outside.
• Be discreet and considerate of your loved one’s feelings. Do not discuss the issue at an event or during a stressful time. Talk to them in a comfortable setting, and let them know that you are confronting them because you care. Emphasize safety!
• Talk with family members or friends who will back you up. Older drivers may be more likely to listen with an open mind to those outside of the family, so ask a friend for help. Hearing the same thing from more than one person may give them the reality check they need, however try not to bombard or overwhelm them with concerns.
• Ask your loved one to speak to a doctor about his or her ability to drive. If your loved one hears a professional opinion, they may feel more inclined to listen and respect the advice they are given.
• Research transportation options in the area. Public transportation may not be the friendliest option for seniors, but your area may have some sort of shuttle service that your loved one can benefit from.
• Offer to drive. Even if it is inconvenient to you at times, offering to give your loved one a ride whenever they need it can express to them that you care and are willing to help. Schedule weekly trips to the grocery store, bank, post office, or coffee shop, so they know that you will be there for them when they need you. This time can allow you to bond and re-gain trust if some of it was lost while asking them to give up driving.
• Talk to the DMV, and file a report. This may lead to a driving evaluation and intervention from transportation officials.
• If worse comes to worse and the person you are concerned about is not able to understand the danger that they pose to themselves and others, you can take extreme measures. You can disable the vehicle, hide their keys, or try to obtain legal guardianship over them. However, these measures may cause much more turmoil in your relationship with them, so be prepared to handle many emotions.
To see the laws in your state and more information about elderly driving safety, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com. Many people wait until a crash or incident happens to take action, but that can be too late, so if you are seriously concerned, act as soon as possible.
If you were injured in a car accident caused by an elderly driver, reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney. Call Davis & Gelshenen LLP at 1-866-427-2121 for a free initial consultation with one of our Experienced, Trusted, and Recommended Personal Injury Attorneys. Davis & Gelshenen LLP handles cases throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio, and will meet with you at your home to discuss your case.