As accident lawyers in the northland, we understand that it is hard to accept when our elders have reached the age where they probably should not be driving anymore. However, it is an important decision to take the keys away in order to avoid automobile accidents that can result in injury or death.
According to a recent article, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says there are more than 22-million drivers in America aged 70 and older. As baby boomers age the number will nearly double by the year 2030. Even though the crash rate for older drivers is actually down from 10 years ago, when there are accidents the chances of a fatality are higher.
A 79-year-old Florida woman backing her Chevrolet Tahoe SUV out of a church parking space struck seven elderly pedestrians before her vehicle landed partially submerged in a pond. Three of the pedestrians died, the other four were taken to the hospital in serious condition.
According to reports, after the woman backed out of the handicapped space and began moving forward, she was unable to clear a parked car. When the woman backed up again, she hit the pedestrians. The vehicle continued in reverse running over a curb, and hitting small tress before landing in the pond. It is still unclear why she continued backwards after hitting the pedestrians, but witnesses speculate that the woman thought she had put the vehicle back in drive. The driver told witnesses that “somehow the pedal got stuck.”
This incident raises the question – “When is someone too old to drive?” Although older drivers generally become more conservative on the road – they will modify their driving habits, and avoid busy highways or driving at night – are they really safe? Many states currently have accelerated license renewal cycles. If a person’s continued fitness to drive is in doubt, state licensing agencies may require renewal applicants to undergo physical or mental examinations or retake the standard licensing tests (vision, written and road). States typically have medical review boards composed of health care professionals who advise on licensing standards and on individual cases in which a person’s ability to drive safely is in doubt.
More frequent trips to the DMV may not be enough. What can you do to help? Here are a few tips to consider on how to make an evaluation on a parent or loved one’s driving ability.
Vision – Conditions like cataracts and glaucoma, common among the elderly, can worsen eyesight and make driving dangerous. Adequate visual acuity and field of vision tend to decline with age. Glare and adjusting to changes in lightness and darkness are other problems commonly experienced by older drivers.
Cognition – Driving requires a high-level cognitive skills, including memory, visual processing, attention, and executive skills. If your loved one suffers from any level of dementia, driving is not a good idea.
Motor function – Older drivers may no longer have the motor skills to handle the wheel and brakes. Changes related to age and musculoskeletal diseases (such as arthritis) can decrease an individual’s ability to drive safety and comfortably.
Medications: Read the labels on your loved one’s medication, and ask your doctor or pharmacist about potentially problematic drug interactions to find out if your loved one shouldn’t be driving while on his or her medications.
Accidents: Has your loved one had one or two minor fender-benders in the recent past?
If you and your loved one decide that your loved one should no longer be driving, remind them that just because the driving days are over doesn’t mean the days of freedom and independence are over too. Check for a listing of senior transportation services or make arrangements with family and friends.
Northland Injury Law helps victims injured in elderly-related car accidents recover the compensation they need. If you have been personally injured, call 816-400-4878 for a Missouri automobile accident lawyer today.