When the Elderly Are Still Driving—When Is it Time to Stop?

Posted on: 15 January 2015

If you have an aging parent, you may notice that their driving skills have begun to significantly decline. They may be making choices that are putting themselves, as well as others at risk every time they get behind the wheel. One of the hardest things that you ever do is to help them figure out when it is time to stop. If you do not take steps to reduce this risk, you may be setting your parent up to be sued, and you may be liable as well.

How Big Is the Problem?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2009, 33 million licensed drivers who were 65 and older, had the ability to take to the roads. In the next 20 years, this number is expected to triple. If that happens, there will be approximately 100 million licensed older drivers in the US alone. While it is easy to blame the seniors for all of the accidents that plague the roads, many of these older drivers actually practices more safety precautions than their younger peers. 

  • They are more likely to wear their seat belts.
  • Seniors tend to drive in better weather.
  • Most senior drivers tend to drive more often during daylight hours.
  • They are less likely to drive when intoxicated, or under the influence.
  • Senior drivers are less likely to be distracted when they are driving.

Unfortunately, even with all of the precautions that they are taking, statistics show that seniors, along with teens are much more disproportionately involved in auto accidents.

How to Evaluate The Risk?

There is no secret formula to aging, it affects everyone differently. While some seniors may still be quite competent drivers at 80, others may need to give up their drivers license at age 65. This is because there are several aging factors that affect how a senior may drive. These are things that you will want to look for when you are evaluating their driving skills.

Seniors may experience:

  • Decreased vision
  • Impaired hearing
  • Reduction in strength, coordination, and reaction times
  • Decreased cognitive abilities often brought on by medical conditions, and various medications

As a result of these factors and more, you may begin to see other signs that your senior is no longer safe behind the wheel.

What Signs Do You See?

Unless there has been a significant change in their medical condition, or even a change in their medications, the decline that you will see in their skills will often occur over a period of time, but there are other signs that you may also see.

  • Your loved one, or others may begin to tell you about multiple close calls that your senior is having while they are driving.
  • There may be a noted increase in the number of traffic stops, citations, or warning tickets that they receive from law enforcement.
  • You may begin to notice small dents, dings, and damage to their vehicle, as well as damage to the mailbox, garage door, and other areas around their home.
  • You may see, or they may report that upper body stiffness may limit the range of motion that they have with their neck. This will affect their ability to make safe lane changes, or clearly see both ways in intersections.
  • You may be contacted because your senior has become lost, or disoriented in locations that they should know well.

How Do You Address It?

As previously stated, this can be a very difficult conversation to have. Asking a senior to no longer drive will often limit their mobility, as well as their independence. They may resent the fact that you are suggesting that they give up something that they have been doing since before you were born.

AARP has recognized the difficulty that this presents, and have developed a free online seminar entitled "We Need to Talk". Not only will this give you evaluation tools, it can also give you conversation pointers. Review this prior to attempting a conversation on this subject with your senior.

If you need a professional to weigh in on their skills, you can also request that your senior's driving skills be reevaluated by the Department of Motor Vehicles even if it is not the time for them to renew their licenses. Some states may require you to have their physician complete this request form.

Reduce the Liability

No one wants to be responsible for an auto accident. You can reduce your responsibility, as well as theirs by taking the necessary steps that you need to take to ensure that they are not involved in, or are the cause of an automobile accident. If they are the cause of the accident, and are sued, they can be at risk of losing everything that they have worked their entire life for.

Unfortunately, this could involve you as well. If the vehicle that your parent is driving happens to be in your name, you may be even be liable for their accident as well.

Make sure that this does not happen. The easiest way to ensure that you will not have to hire a car accident lawyer to address these types of matters is to make sure that they are not behind the wheel when they should not be.