For most of us, driving equals independence. The freedom to go where you want, when you want, comes with a driver’s license. You probably remember when you first got your driver’s license – like a whole new world just opened up to you. It is understandable then, that taking away someone’s ability to drive is not something you want to do; however, if you have a parent, grandparent, or older loved one who has become a danger behind the wheel you may have to do just that. The reality is that older drivers are not just frustrating for others on the roadway, they are sometimes dangerous. Moreover, older drivers are disproportionately involved in fatal car accidents year after year in the United States. With all of this in mind, what can you do to keep your older loved ones safe behind the wheel?
The Startling Facts – Seniors Are at Risk on the Roadway
You have probably found yourself getting irritated with the little old lady in front of you puttering down the street or the old man who drifted into your lane of traffic and thought how frustrating older driver can be. Statistics however, tell us that they are not just a source of frustration for other drivers – they are a source of danger to themselves and to others who share the roadway with them. Across the nation, older drivers are involved in more fatal car crashes than they should be according to figures compiled by the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration, or NHTSA. In fact, in 43 states, including Illinois, older drivers are disproportionately involved in fatal collisions. Rhode Island appears to be the most dangerous state for senior drivers where the rate of people 65 and over in the state killed in a car crash is 34.6 percent but the age group’s share of the overall population is just 15.8 percent. In other words, they are statistically over two times as likely as they should be to be involved in a fatal crash in Rhode Island. The State of Illinois comes in at number 12 on the most dangerous states for senior drivers list with 19.3 percent involved in a fatal car crash although seniors make up just 13.9 percent of the population.
Why Are Seniors at Risk on the Roadway?
Why, exactly, is it that seniors pose such a danger to themselves and others on the roadway? There are several reasons:
- Physical impairment – as we age, the natural aging process takes its toll on our bodies causing impairments such as vision loss, arthritis, high blood pressure, and/or a weak heart. Any one of these can create a risk for a motorist while driving.
- Mental impairment – just as aging affects our physical bodies, it also affects our mental state. One out of every three seniors dies suffering from Alzheimer’s, or another form of old age related dementia.
- Changing rules of the road – a 90-year-old driver learned to drive back in the 1930s when cars were not even part of the average household yet. The rules of the road have changed a bit since then and many senior drivers have a difficult time adjusting to those changing rules of the road.
- Changing technology – it goes without saying that technology has come a long way since seniors first started driving. While all that technology might be great for new drivers, it can be very confusing, and distracting, for older drivers.
- Fear –seniors fear losing their ability to drive. That fear often causes them to put off renewing their license which, in turn, means they don’t get tested to ensure they are still safe to be on the roadway.
What Can You Do?
If you are concerned about an older loved one who is still driving, the most important thing you can do is to acknowledge there is a potential problem. Sit down with your loved one and talk about the dangers of senior driving. AARP has a great online seminar “We Need to Talk” that can help you through what may be a difficult conversation for you to have with your loved one. Of equal importance if you want to keep your loved one safe is a willingness to be tough if necessary. Talk to your parents doctor to discuss the next steps to take wit the Secretary of State regarding your parents driver’s license.
If you have questions or concerns for an elder law attorney, contact the experienced Illinois elder law attorneys at Nash, Nash, Bean & Ford, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.