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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Balancing Elderly Driving Rights with Family Safety

Taking away the keys from an elderly family member is a difficult decision. Driving a vehicle gives a senior adult a sense of independence. When family members decide it is time for a senior adult to stop driving, they are taking away that person’s independence. The person must rely completely on other individuals to run errands or take the senior where he or she needs or wants to go. A California elder law attorney may help facilitate the discussion by explaining several safety issues that elderly drivers and their families need to consider.

Safety Concerns for Elderly Drivers

During 2017, 6,784 senior adults 65 years and older died in motor vehicle accidents. Nineteen percent of drivers that year were elderly drivers, and 14 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes were elderly drivers. From 2008 through 2017, the population consisting of individuals aged 65 and older increased by 31 percent, while 22 percent of motor vehicle fatalities during that period were people in this age group. Many elderly drivers have impairments in three main areas that negatively impact their driving ability — cognition, vision, and motor function.

Elderly drivers have high fatality rates in motor vehicle accidents for several reasons. Senior adults may have medical conditions that can result in life-threatening complications from accident injuries. Also, elderly drivers are more easily injured in motor vehicle accidents than younger drivers.

Because of the increase in impairments that could impact a senior’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely combined with a higher risk of serious or life-threatening injuries, balancing elderly driver rights with safety concerns becomes increasingly difficult for family members. It also becomes more difficult for government agencies seeking to protect everyone on the road.

How To Know When It is Time to Give Up Driving?

It can be difficult to know if your loved one should give up driving. Some signs that an elderly driver might need to stop driving include:

  • Multiple scrapes or dents on the car
  • Repeatedly hitting the garage, mailbox, garbage can, or other objects
  • Driving too slow or too fast for conditions
  • Forgetting directions to familiar locations
  • Repeatedly getting lost or having trouble getting home
  • Frequent close calls
  • Hitting curbs when turning right or backing up
  • Stopping when there is no reason to stop, such as stopping for green lights
  • Difficulty in traffic, especially merging into lanes or changing lanes
  • Forgetting to signal when turning or changing lanes
  • Failing to stop for traffic signs or traffic lights
  • Anxiety, road rage, or extreme stress when driving
  • Repeated traffic violations

The above list is not an exhaustive list of signs that a person should stop driving. If you are concerned about an elderly family member’s driving ability, you can request a DMV reexamination. The DMV evaluates the person’s driving skills to determine if the person should continue driving.

Contact a California Elder Law Attorney for Help with Senior Issues

If you have questions about elder law issues, contact the experienced elder law attorneys at Horizon Law today. We can provide legal advice and easily understandable information about many issues faced by the elderly community.


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