When a Loved One Is too Old to Drive Safely

Though there are a variety of public transportation options in the United States, driving is still an appropriate choice for many. Being able to transport oneself throughout the city efficiently has an extraordinary impact on the quality of life for an individual. As an individual gets older, his/her cognitive and physical abilities start to decline, and it becomes more difficult and more dangerous for that individual to operate a motor vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017, it was estimated that there were 44 million licensed drivers that were 65 years of age and older. This has been almost a 63 percent increase in the number of older, licensed drivers since 1999.  Older drivers (65 and older) have an increased probability of getting into an accident because of the decline in their abilities due to their age and medical complications.

Increase in Senior Citizen Fatalities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in 2017, more than 257,000 senior citizens were injured and about 7,000 were killed in car accidents. This number averaged out to 20 deaths and 700 injuries due to motor vehicle accidents per day. The CDC determined that once an older adult hits the age of 75, he/she is more likely to be involved in a fatal crash, and that number jumps when the adult hits 80 years old. Though older adults generally are more likely to wear a seat belt, drive when the road conditions are at their safest (i.e. in good weather and during the daytime), and are less likely to drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs, the failing of physical and cognitive abilities has had the greatest impact on an older driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.

Re-Evaluation Program

Many states have set up special provisions and evaluations for older drivers so as to test their ability to continue operating a motor vehicle. A person’s physical and cognitive abilities and their driving qualifications will be reevaluated if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is no longer fit to drive. Reasonable grounds are interpreted to be a specific driving incident or behavior that is reported or observed by a police officer, doctor, and/or family member or friend, which might make the reporter believe the driver is no longer capable of driving safely. The driver then may be subject to a few cognitive and physical tests, an interview, and possibly a driving test to assess the capabilities of the driver.

Signs That an Older Driver May Not Be Fit to Drive

The following are signs that may indicate that an older adult is no longer fit to operate a motor vehicle safely:

  •       Inability to obey traffic signs and requests
  •       Confusion about getting to a familiar location and familiar street disorientation
  •       A failure to stay in the line and be aware of other vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists
  •       An increase in traffic tickets
  •       Complaints from family members and friends about near misses, close calls, and distracted driving habits
  •       Slow reaction times while on the road
  •       Squinting and/or not responding to loud noises or road noises

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle, please contact an experienced Bethesda car accident lawyer. Attorneys can assess your claim and determine if you are able to recover damages for injuries sustained as a result of the accident.

Thanks to Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their insight into personal injury claims and when a loved one is too old to drive.