As people age, they begin to lose some of their capabilities they may have taken for granted when they were younger. Reflexes and eyesight begin to diminish over time, which could hinder one’s ability to safely drive a car. Although driving helps older adults stay independent and mobile, there will inevitably come a time when their abilities have been so reduced that they become a danger to themselves and others.
There are more and more older drivers on the road today than ever before. According to the CDC, in 2020, there were 48 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 years old, an increase of 68 percent since 2000. Almost 7,500 older adults were killed in car accidents in 2020, and almost 200,000 people received treatment in emergency rooms.
There is no average age for an older person to stop driving. Loss of driving skills largely depends on the health and well-being of the individual. For instance, one 65-year-old person can have a much better reaction time and vision than someone else who is the same age. However, as you age, physiological changes do occur and can increase the risk of a car accident. Some changes to be aware of include:
- Loss of strength to control the steering wheel accurately and quickly.
- Pain in the back or neck, which makes it difficult to turn and see blind spots or check for cars or pedestrians.
- Slower reaction time when attempting to brake quickly or while merging into another lane.
- Loss of senses, such as decreased vision or loss of hearing, making it harder to respond to emergencies, other cars, or pedestrians.
- Ability to multi-task, such as remembering road signs or identifying signals while maintaining focus on the road.
- Joint pain or muscle weakness, specifically in the legs, which makes it more difficult to switch between the gas and brake pedal and to operate them efficiently.
Although older drivers ages 65 and older are about 16 percent more likely to cause a car accident than drivers between the ages of 25 and 64 years old, drivers under the age of 25 years old are 188 percent more likely to cause an accident compared to other age groups. Additionally, there are more older drivers than there are younger drivers. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has reported that the chance of a fatal crash increases as your age increases from 70 years and older. This is mostly due to the increased risk of a serious injury as you get older.
For any sensitive topic, honesty and open communication are vital to having a healthy and productive conversation. This is especially true when it is time to talk to your parents about driving retirement. The best way to start the conversation is to observe them beforehand. Go along on a drive with them and take note of their capabilities, followed by checking for red flags.
Check for Damage
Walk around your parents’ car and check for signs of damage, like newly fresh dents or scratches. Damage to a vehicle is often a good sign that the driver is losing their ability to safely drive. Additionally, check for signs of small accidents, like a damaged mailbox or garage door.
Close calls indicate the driver is misjudging spaces. The AAA found that rear-bumper collisions are common among drivers with diminishing skills, so be on the look out if your parent has had a few in the past couple of years.
Check if your parents has recently received a ticket for a traffic violation. If they have, it is a good sign that they are losing their skills to safely drive.
Another good check is to find out if your parents’ insurance premiums have gone up or possibly cancelled. Insurance companies do this because of too many accidents or driving violations.
Many medications cause drowsiness and also adversely affect cognitive skills and other physical capabilities. According to the AAA, over two-thirds of drivers over 65 years old take five or more medications per day. Be aware of what medications your parents are taking, like anti-depressants or cough medicines. Doctors normally instruct people to not take certain medications if they plan on driving, but you should reinforce this as well.
Signs of Cognitive Issues
Forgetting to use turn signals or turn on headlights, or forgetting to put on the seat belt, are all signs of cognitive decline. Other signs according to the AAA are drifting between lanes or trouble making decisions, particularly in emergency situations.
Vision problems are a major concern, with issues like glaucoma or cataracts interfering with older drivers’ eyesight.
Nighttime driving could be an issue as well. If your parents are nervous or do not want to drive at night, it could be a sign that their vision is deteriorating.
There are many signs of cognitive decline, and getting lost is a major one, especially when in a familiar area. Other cognitive issues could be forgetting what the destination is or having difficulty remembering what exit to take off the highway.
Getting Easily Agitated
Road rage, stress, and confusion behind the wheel are all signs of frustration. These may occur when a driver is compensating for physical challenges or is having difficulty keeping up with road conditions.
Concerned Loved Ones
If family members, friends, or neighbors confide in you that they are nervous when your parent is driving, then you should pay attention to those concerns. It may be time to speak with your parents.
How to Help Your Parents With Driving Retirement?
If you come to the conclusion that your parents cannot safely drive, then you must have a conversation with them. Here are a few tips:
- Do not wait: Talk to your parents immediately, and do not wait for an accident or medical issue to happen. Review the warning signs and start the conversation as soon as possible. Suggest they avoid driving when the traffic is heavy or at night.
- Be understanding: Put yourself in your parents’ shoes; it is difficult to give up something that you have been doing for years. Be respectful and understand what they are going through. Do not be judgmental, instead, be compassionate toward them and let them know you care about their safety.
- Include the family: Be sure to include other family members. If everyone agrees your parents should stop driving, they could help convince them.
- DMV: A visit to the DMV may convince your parents to give up driving, as they could take a driving or vision test.
- Alternative transportation: Perhaps the biggest fear about giving up driving is the threat of being stuck at home all the time. Assure your parents that there are plenty of alternatives modes of transportation. They could use rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft. There are also community-based senior transport services available, as well as local buses and trains.
- Think about others: If you are having difficulty convincing your parents to stop driving, let them know it is not just about their safety, but the safety of others. They could be putting their grandchildren or the neighborhood children and other families at risk.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Those Injured by Negligent Drivers
Driving retirement is a difficult topic but is necessary to have that conversation if your parents can no longer drive safely. Although you and your family may take proactive steps to be safe drivers, you cannot guarantee other motorists are as cautious. If you have been injured by a negligent driver, speak with one of our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. Call us at 215-569-8488 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, Media, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, we proudly serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.