Elderly drivers’ can become liability when they continue to drive well into their later years. As a group, seniors age 80 and older have the highest rate of fatal car accidents per mile driven — even higher than for teens — according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Simply put, too many people continue driving when it’s no longer safe for them to do so.
Independence vs Safety
Nobody wants to have to take the keys away from an elderly loved one. Driving represents independence and freedom, in addition to providing mobility, and politicians aren’t eager to take on seniors by making driver’s-license renewals more stringent. If you have ever approached a spouse, parent or friend about giving up driving, you can appreciate why. But state lawmakers largely sidestep the issue, so it’s up to families to take action when a loved one is no longer a safe driver.
Test & Address
If you suspect that an older family member’s driving skills have seriously deteriorated, take a ride with him. Note whether he has trouble judging gaps in traffic, following traffic signals and road signs, maneuvering or parking the car, or remembering the route. If there’s a problem, “address it head-on,” says Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research at AAA. “Most people wait until after a crash and it’s too late,” he says. But you should act before an accident occurs. It may be difficult, but it can save lives.