Knowing when you are not fit to be on the road is essential. Many seniors are unaware of when exactly to forego driving and rely on others. Senior drivers are increasingly becoming a problem on the road, as the baby boomer generation ages. Over 43 million adults over the age of 65 were issued driver’s licenses last year, an increase of over 50% from 20 years ago. Elderly drivers may not want to give up on driving, as it is a major symbol of independence. However, that can be a very selfish attitude. There are many cases every year of elderly drivers who don’t want to be deprived of their independence ending up hitting people or other vehicles on the road, leading to enormous physical and emotional pain. If you are a senior and your alertness, vision, or other senses are slipping, stop driving before you hurt yourself or some innocent bystanders.
The Law Office of Fredson Statmore Bitterman is an auto accident attorney in New Jersey. We represent families after fatal car crashes with wrongful death actions, ensuring they get the support they need. If you’re looking for a reliable, experienced personal injury or wrongful death attorney, with more than 50 years of experience and a long track-record of successful litigations, reach out to Fredson Statmore Bitterman LLC today to schedule your free consultation.
Data About Older Drivers
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration predicts that, in 10 years, one out of four drivers on the roads will be over the age of 65. Men over the age of 85 have just as high a crash rate as those in their early 20s. Most older drivers have better driving habits than their younger counterparts. Many older drivers choose to restrict themselves to driving only in conditions where they feel safe — like avoiding driving at night, in heavy traffic, during inclement weather, or on roads with high speed limits.
The most common causes of a senior driver needing to get off the road are:
- Vision problems
- Loss of coordination
- Difficulty paying attention, remembering things, or comprehending what’s happening
- Medications that impair driving (which includes main pain medications)
Signs a Senior Should Get Off the Road
People age differently. Some 80 year-olds are fully alert and ready for the road, while others are experiencing declining cognitive capacities that put themselves and others at risk when driving a vehicle. The first step to determine if a senior should get off the road is to observe them driving. The following situations could indicate there is a problem:
- Getting lost regularly, even when driving familiar routes
- Slow reaction time
- Falling asleep behind the wheel
- Failing to obey traffic signs
- Cutting off other drivers or taking too wide of turns
- Forgetting to use mirrors before changing lanes
- Using poor judgment, like not yielding the right of way
- Becoming easily agitated
If it’s your parent that you are observing, it may not be a good idea to criticize their driving while on the road. However, once you get out of the car, review with them some of the problems you observed, without being angry or judgemental. Calmly state the specific unsafe actions you witnessed.
What to Do If a Senior Shows Any of These Signs
If you observe an older driver having problems like the ones above-mentioned, there are a few steps to consider taking, going forward:
- Schedule a doctor’s appointment — Have them get checked by a physician to see if they are physically fit to be driving. The doctor may also be able to provide advice for drivers who are on medications that may impact their capacity to drive safely.
- Schedule an eye exam — If you know or suspect the older driver has declining vision, it’s a good idea to schedule a vision test with an ophthalmologist. If the eye doctor determines they are unfit to drive, it’s time for them to get off the road.
- Take a self-assessment — AAA has a brochure for drivers over the age of 65 to help them assess their own driving performance. It will help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and provide suggestions for how you can improve your driving.
Work with a driving rehabilitation specialist (DRS) — A DRS can help you identify any problem areas in your driving, and provide you with strategies you can implement to improve your driving abilities.
- Be respectful — If you are the son or daughter of an aging driver who you think should not be driving anymore, it’s important to communicate respectfully and openly about retiring from driving. Talk about alternative ways for them to get around besides driving themselves everywhere.
- Appeal to their sense of responsibility — There is a good chance the senior will resist your efforts to get them to retire from driving. They may become defensive or even irate. If they get angry, gently end the conversation and then talk to them about it again a few days later. If they have taken medical tests and seen a driving rehabilitation specialist and they determined it’s risky for them to be driving, remind the older driver that they are putting more than just themselves at risk by being on the road, but also others, who could be injured or even killed from a car crash.
Driving Safety Tips for Senior Drivers
We discussed some safety tips already, but as a reminder:
- Get a vision test regularly
- Talk with your doctor about how your medications could impact your driving abilities
- Don’t drive at night or in inclement weather
- Plan your route before you head out, in particular avoiding any dangerous intersections
- Avoid distracted driving
- Leave a bit of extra distance between you and the vehicle in front of you
You may be tempted to simply get a senior a new vehicle with all the latest safety features, like collision avoidance sensors, but doing so is not a substitute for a driver’s own abilities. What is more, a change in vehicle for seniors could create some confusion and lead to actually a higher risk of an accident.
There is no ultimate answer to the question “How old is too old to drive?”. It’s just going to come down to the physical and cognitive health of individual seniors. Older drivers should visit their doctor regularly, and welcome the observations and advice of passengers, regarding their driving skills. Sooner or later, the older driver will have to retire from behind the wheel and rely on things like taxis, Uber, friends, and family to get them safely where they need to go. The alternative — them driving in a health situation that limits their abilities — is not worth the risk, to both them and everyone else on the road.
If the worst does happen though, Fredson Statmore Bitterman LLC is here to help. We represent families after fatal car crashes with wrongful death actions as well as people filing personal injury claims. We will do everything we can to make sure you get the support you need. If you’re looking for a reliable, experienced personal injury or wrongful death attorney in New Jersey, reach out to Fredson Statmore Bitterman LLC today to schedule your free consultation.