Accidents and Older Drivers – When an Elderly Relative Should Give up the Keys
Older drivers are having fewer crashes as cars become safer. Another reason is family members are getting better at keeping the car keys away from elderly drivers who may be a risk to themselves and others.
A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the number of people aged 70 or over who were killed in car crashes fell by 18 percent in the two decades to 2016.
The IIHS research suggested older drivers are limiting their time on the road more than previously. The number of road deaths of elderly people is falling even as the older population is being swelled by the baby boomer population reaching retirement.
Learn to recognize the physical and mental signs in seniors’ driving that signal it may no longer be safe for older loved ones to get behind the wheel.
Many older people seek to hang onto their independence. That’s understandable but, at the same time, family members should look out for the warning signs of deterioration in older drivers.
Although many older adults are capable of driving safely, even well into their 80s, people age differently. A number of factors put seniors at much greater risk of being involved in accidents.
People over 70 who are involved in crashes are more likely to be seriously injured and require longer stays in hospitals.
It’s important to know the risk factors and look out for the warning signs that indicate an older person is not safe on the highway. Family members should also be prepared to take tough decisions and keep the car keys away from their relatives, even if only at certain times like at night.
Here are some strategies to help you talk to an elderly family member about giving up driving and considering other transportation alternatives.
Taking Away the Car Keys – Signs to Look for in Older Drivers
- Visual decline: Changes in eyesight are one of the most common problems seniors suffer on the road. They may experience narrowed peripheral vision, impaired depth perception, poor judgment of speed and limited night vision. Seniors may find themselves increasingly sensitive to headlights, sunlight and the glare from car lights.
- Limited motion: Older people often experience delayed response times. They may struggle to find the correct pedal in time. Restricted mobility can mean they are unable to look over the shoulder for cars approaching in their blind spots.
- Hearing loss: The loss of hearing can be a major cause of accidents. An elderly driver may not hear the approach of a truck or another vehicle, a warning horn or a train on a grade crossing.
- Chronic conditions: Older people suffer more health implications like diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, strokes, dementia and Parkinson’s disease. They are more likely to become drowsy at the wheel.
- Medications: Older people often take more medications; This in combination or taken with alcohol, can result in risky, unpredictable and dangerous side effects and drug interactions.
- Drowsiness: Medications and other conditions cause older people to become drowsy at the wheel.
- Dementia or brain impairment: These conditions make seniors’ driving more dangerous and more frustrating. They cause delayed reactions and confusion on the road.
Warning Signs to Look for in Elderly Drivers
There are many signs to look for in elderly drivers that may suggest they are a danger to other motorists and themselves. They include:
- Reduced peripheral vision;
- Drifting across lanes or centerlines:
- Poor driving at night:
- Problems with a range of motions and being unable to look over their shoulders:
- Failure to use turn signals;
- Getting lost on familiar roads
- Erratic driving such as hitting curbs and accelerating and decelerating suddenly.
Encouraging Elderly Drivers to Give up Their Car Keys
If an elderly relative shows signs of poor driving, you should have a conversation about giving up their car keys.
It’s better to have the conversation first than wait for an accident or a conviction. One of the main reasons older people are reluctant to stop driving is that it is one of the few ways they can continue to feel independent. It’s a difficult discussion when an elderly relative has control of most of their faculties.
Be empathetic and talk about alternatives such as using public transport. If the relative only struggles to drive at certain times such as at night, suggest they only drive during the daylight. Encourage them to go for an eye test. In some cases, a new prescription can keep your relative on the road for longer.
If you have an elderly relative who still drives make sure to look out for any warning signs. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident in Virginia, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at (757) 231-6443.