Driving gives us the independence to go where we want, when we want, without having to depend on anyone else. For elderly drivers, the fear of giving up this independence can be overwhelming. However, as we age, we typically experience some decrease in vision, hearing, and muscle strength, all of which are necessary for safe driving. Other factors may come into play as well, including cognitive impairments and reaction time. Although many elderly individuals drive safely well into their 80s, it is important to pay attention to warning signs if your elderly loved one is still behind the wheel.
When elderly parents or grandparents are still driving, their loved ones may have to determine when it’s time to permanently hang up their keys. Unfortunately, you may think it’s time, but your loved one may not agree. It can be an extremely challenging and emotional process for both of you, but if it is indeed time, ignoring the warning signs can be very dangerous.
Drivers Over 85 Four Times More Likely to Die in Crash than Teens
Carnegie Mellon University and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted a study of older drivers. The study revealed that drivers over the age of 65 are at a greater risk of having an accident than their younger counterparts. Even more concerning is their finding that drivers over the age of 85 are nearly four times more likely to die in an accident than teen drivers. This is taking into account the fact that senior drivers typically wear their seatbelts and drive cautiously, while teen drivers often do not.
As we live longer and healthier lives, age is indeed just a number. However, age-related changes affect most of us at some point. Slight changes in vision and physical fitness do not necessarily affect our ability to drive, but we should be aware of them. For example, at the young age of 57, an individual may begin to notice a slight degradation in vision. This doesn’t mean that he or she should stop driving, rather a pair of driving glasses may be in order, or it’s possible that night driving should be avoided.
Muscle weakness may make it harder to grip the steering wheel or make sharp turns. Hearing impairments may make it difficult to hear sirens or horns. These are all age-related problems that may affect the ability to drive safely. However, many of them can be addressed. For example, muscle weakness may require hand-strength exercises, vision problems may require special glasses, hearing problems may be resolved with a hearing aid. Certain issues throw up more of a red flag, however. Some of these more serious warning signs include:
- Receiving an increasing number of traffic tickets and warnings
- Bumping into other vehicles in parking lots and when trying to park on the street
- Getting easily frustrated or become angry when driving
- Constantly asking for help from passengers when attempting to navigate traffic
- Getting easily lost
Many factors contributing to the loss of safe driving ability are simply age-related, while others such as medication side-effects, may be temporary. The most common factors affecting driving abilities as we age include:
- Loss of muscle strength and flexibility
- Slower reflexes
- Vision and hearing problems
- Physical and mental conditions, from arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease
- Side-effects from medications
The Hope Law Firm – Personal Injury Attorneys Serving Des Moines and the Surrounding Area
If you are concerned that an elderly parent or grandparent is no longer capable of driving safely, the first step is to sit down with your loved one and have an honest conversation. You may be surprised at their willingness to hand over the keys. But it’s not usually that easy. Either way, if they are no longer driving safely, they are putting themselves and others at risk. If you have questions about how to approach this issue with an elderly loved one, contact the Hope Law Firm. We have extensive experience in this area, and we can help.
If your elderly loved one has been involved in an accident, or if you have been injured by an elderly driver, we can also help. This is a delicate and complicated area of the law. Our compassionate, knowledgeable legal team can help you determine how to move forward. Contact the Hope Law Firm for a free consultation today.